WWNBS (Except in Lebanon)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Via Matt Drudge, I have an update to a recent post about an incident in which a man who appears to be of Middle Eastern extraction was asked to refrain from wearing a tee shirt with Arabic script (which reads "We will not be silenced.") in an airport. This man, one Raed Jarrar (pictured at right in the same or a similar shirt), is now the subject of a report by Reuters, through which I found this blog post in which he details the incident.

Before I begin, let me reiterate where I stood on this incident upon first learning about it. I stand by this.

... Jarrar does not necessarily have the constitutional right to wear Arabic script. You can't say, "I have a bomb," at the airport -- in English for that matter. And you can't shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. [As a clarification, the undecipherable script could, not unreasonably, be taken as an implied threat. Furthermore, Jarrar's post indicates that there may have been numerous calls made about the shirt.--ed] ...

In light of the fact that law enforcement are prohibited from expending their limited resources efficiently -- i.e., by profiling people who (like Jarrar) look like terrorists -- they have to do the next best thing: Stop anyone who acts suspiciously or looks like he might sympathize with terrorists. Ironically, had law enforcement profiling at its disposal, Jarrar probably could go into an airport with such a shirt on because everyone would know that he'd been checked out already. But this tool is unavailable and so, allowing such apparel not only runs the risk of distracting law enforcement, it also risks causing wary passengers to take matters into their own hands as they have twice very recently.
On further reflection, I have also realized that the one thing I have never heard come up at all in the domestic security debate has been the role that government respect for the right to property -- which has frequently been a misguided casualty of civil rights legislation -- could have in solving the dilemma Jarrar's case brings up.

Let's set aside for the moment the fact that, in a fully free society, commercial airports would be private property. The airlines (e.g., Jet Blue) themselves have the right -- whether the government chooses to recognize it or not -- to enforce dress codes if they wish, and to refuse service to anyone they wish on whatever basis, no matter how silly I or Jarrar might think it.

Thus, handled at certain points, what Raed wears in an airport would not fall under the government's purview at all. (And this would have the happy effect of not getting the government involved in what people choose to say on their shirts. While I can see why this was a concern, the less of this that happens, the better.) Ironically, he might find himself even less free to wear a tee shirt with Arabic script on it than before.

While we all have freedom of speech in America, we are not entitled to express our opinions through the use of someone else's resources. This is why I cannot simply plant a campaign poster in my neighbor's yard. This is why Jarrar should not have my tax money at his disposal (if he does) to finance his various foreign junkets. Nor I his money for my causes. Indeed, Jarrar himself seems to apprehend this point: He has closed the comments on his blog. This is no more an infringement of my freedom of speech than JetBlue's imposition of a rule against Arabic script would be an infringment of Jarrar's. If he objects to the notion that an airline can have "no Arabic script" as part of a customer dress code, then he has some explaining to do.

But even if our governmnet actually protected the right of a carrier like Jet Blue to bar certain forms of dress on its flights, all the above still does not mean that the government would properly just ignore suspicious-looking characters with an interest in domestic aviation. Not after the atrocities committed in the name of Islam on September 11, 2001.

Suppose a domestic airline, owned by a wealthy Middle Easterner, saw a market for Moslems (or Middle Eastern-looking folk) unable to fly on other lines or uncomfortable doing so. This airline would doubtless attract attention, as it should, from law enforcement, as would its customers. This would not excuse undue harassment, but during a war (which should be declared, by the way) there will always be some whose loyalty will reasonably come under question.

The account of the events at the airport in Raed Jarrar's blog posting appears to be factually correct to me . It is worth perusing for several reasons that will become apparent shortly. For one thing, it appears that law enforcement did not handle this encounter entirely well.
... I told him that I had checked in all of my bags and I asked him "why do you want me to take off my t-shirt? Isn't it my constitutional right to express myself in this way?" The second man in a greenish suit interfered and said "people here in the US don't understand these things about constitutional rights". So I answered him "I live in the US, and I understand it is my right to wear this t-shirt".

Then I once again asked the three of them : "How come you are asking me to change my t-shirt? Isn't this my constitutional right to wear it? I am ready to change it if you tell me why I should. Do you have an order against Arabic t-shirts? Is there such a law against Arabic script?" so inspector Harris answered "you can't wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads "I am a robber" and going to a bank". I said "but the message on my t-shirt is not offensive" ... [bold added]
If the "second man" really said what he did, he has no business working in or with law enforcement, even though he is arguably correct. The job of law enforcement personnel is to enforce the law whether or not those who break it know or understand it.

But yes, the green-suited thug is correct. For starters, every voter who has ever supported a bond issue so that the government could build an airport with confiscated funds -- rather than private industry with money it earned and it alone risked -- does not understand that it is not the government's purpose to redistribute wealth. Even if that is what the mob wants. Everyone who thinks that the government should randomly frisk harmless octogenarians at airports -- but not offend Moslems and Middle Easterners by casting a watchful eye their way -- does not understand that there is no "right" "not to be offended". And every American who, even with the best intentions, thinks that there should be laws that force businesses to not discriminate against some individuals -- does not understand that it is not the purpose of the government to make us associate with anyone against our wishes. And Jarrar either fails to understand or simply does not care about any of these things.

Let us give Jarrar the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Let us suppose that the ruckus he is raising -- with free publicity from al-Reuters -- is motivated by a sincere concern for freedom in America, including his own. He is, after all, a prominent member of an organization that considers the United States "war criminals". (I disagree with that assessment, but it is consistent with his apparent conviction that our government is not acting in the way it should.)

Then why was he in Lebanon recently, where he consorted with Syrians?
I am so impressed by the Syrian people's generosity in receiving Lebanese refugees. The Syrian government didn't even have to send food or supplies to the refugees because of the overwhelming grassroots support. When I was in the school/refugee camp, many neighbors were walking in with food and clothes. Neighbors donated mattresses, TVs, satellites [sic], money, and other aid.
Good thing the Syrian government didn't have to help the people displaced by Israel's defensive maneuvers! Their hands were pretty full, I understand, passing weapons from Iran to Lebanon so the Party of God could launch rockets from civilian neighborhoods or from behind UN observers -- and towards Israeli neighborhoods. How, exactly, was United States on the wrong side of this one -- to the extent it helped Israel?

And not only does Jarrar ignore the role that the Islamic states played in making the Lebanese miserable, he allows a bunch of bigoted ingrates to run him out of the refugee camp -- but not without relaying their accusations to the world.
I was called by two young Lebanese people, and they asked me whether me and the rest of the delegation visiting their shelter where coming from the US. I said yes. They said: "you better get the hell out of here unless you want us to make a scene". I tried to explain that we are the "good" Americans who are against the war, so they said go back home and change your government. "you can't come here visit us in a shelter that we were sent to because of your tax money and your bombs, and expect us to be nice to you". So me and the other Americans got the hell out of there.
What? Did he even attempt to explain how America stood for freedom "in better days"? That he was trying to "change [his] government"? And where was the fighting spirit he showed in the airport? Surely, if these lads understood the power of humble "peace" activists to "change their government" by peaceful means, they would have wanted their ears a bit longer. Or if they somehow thought them militarily that powerful, they would have feared them. In either case, methinks Jarrar left too hastily.

And then there's this gem:
It sucks to be an Arab/Muslim living in the US these days. When you go to the middle east, you are a US tax-payer destroying people's houses with your money, and when you come back to the US, you are a suspected terrorist and plane hijacker.
Well, that may be, Raed. But it apparently doesn't "suck" as much as it does to be an Arab/Moslem in an Arab/Moslem nation. Why else would, "tens of millions of Muslims immigrate to non-Muslim societies," as Dennis Prager recently pointed out? And why else would you return here, and feel safe enough to make national news speaking out against my government besides?

And why else would "We Will Not Be Silent" be silenced in a nation they are providing with so much support?

So Jarrar obviously does know that he is free to speak his mind here in America. The real question is why does he say what he does?

-- CAV


SN said...

Thanks for the background on this guy.

Gus Van Horn said...

Happy to oblige! Thanks for the tip-off!