Transportation Security Administration officials and JetBlue Airways are paying $240,000 to settle (.pdf) a discrimination lawsuit against a District of Columbia man who, as a condition of boarding a domestic flight, was forced to cover his shirt that displayed Arabic writing.
According to a civil rights lawsuit, TSA and JetBlue demanded Raed Jarrar to sit at the back of a 2006 flight from New York to Oakland because his shirt read “We Will Not Be Silent” in English and Arabic.
As Jarrar was waiting to board, TSA officials approached him and said he was required to remove his shirt because passengers were not comfortable with it, according to the lawsuit. The suit claimed one TSA official commented that the Arabic lettering was akin to wearing a T-shirt at a bank stating, “I am a robber.”
The lawsuit claimed Jarrar, 30, invoked the First Amendment but acquiesced after it became clear to him that he would not be allowed to fly if he did not cover his shirt with one given to him by JetBlue officials.
“All people in this country have the right to be free of discrimination and to express their own opinions,” Jarrar wrote on his blog. “With this outcome, I am hopeful that TSA and airlines officials will think twice before practicing illegal discrimination and that other travelers will be spared the treatment I endured.”