Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Arabic on a tshirt

Writer and activist Raed Jarrar was stopped and harrassed in New York's JFK airport for wearing a t-shirt that said "I will not be silent" in arabic script.
He said "people are feeling offended because of your t-shirt". I looked at my t-shirt: I was wearing my shirt which states in both Arabic and English "we will not be silent".

and then later in the questioning of Raed in the airport by this Inspector, other officials, and employees of Jet Blue airlines:
. . . 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, it just says "we will not be silent". I got this t-shirt from Washington DC. There are more than 1000 t-shirts printed with the same slogan, you can google them or email them at It is printed in many other languages: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, English, etc." Inspector Harris said: "We cant make sure that your t-shirt means we will not be silent, we don't have a translator. Maybe it means something else". I said: "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English". He said "maybe it is not the same message".

Wow... just displaying something in a non-English language makes one a terrorist. Good to know! Ignorance reaching new heights. Apparently many people called airport security to report being disturbed or scared by Raed's tshirt. What if *gasp* he had been reading a book ... in Arabic?


Paul Davidson said...

This kind of crap is why I chose routes on my last two international trips that avoided connections in the US and American airlines, and paid more to do so. Fascist morons.

C. M. Mayo said...

Ah, the outrage du jour. If I could drive across the ocean I would.

Jean said...

"What if *gasp* he had been reading a book ... in Arabic"?

Hey, it doesn't have to be in Arabic. A guy was detained and questioned at Luton for having a copy of Craig Murray's Murder in Samarkand, and ordered to relinquish the book before boarding. See my post here:

or read the original account here:

But what I'm wondering is, woould T-shirts with the bilingual slogans featured here

also be considered offensive by American air travelers?

Nice to stumble upon your blog, by the way. I'm a linguist and translator myself (Slovene to English, though mostly scientific and general texts, not literary).

Anonymous said...

And speaking a non-Western language can get you into trouble too, see what happened in Spain on a British charter flight,,1857082,00.html


poet CAConrad said...


Have you been to Pierre Joris's blog lately? He has JUST translated the most exquisite poem by the Moroccan poet Rachida Madani, which I posted onto PhillySound

Joris's NOMADICS is full of translation and travel you would very much appreciate.

vegetarian SIN eater