JetBlue Airways and TSA officials will pay $240,000 to an airline passenger who was forced to cover his T-shirt containing Arabic writing before he could board a plane. The AFP reports that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought the lawsuit claiming that Raed Jarrar, a U.S. resident, was discriminated against based on the Arabic message on his T-shirt and his ethnicity. The T-shirt read "We Will Not Be Silent" in English and Arabic, and Raed Jarar was told other passengers felt uncomfortable because wearing an Arabic-inscribed T-shirt in an airport was like "wearing a T-shirt at a bank stating, 'I am a robber.'"
In light of the increased security and related laws passed since 9/11, concerns about ethnic profiling have been on the rise, as there have been multiple instances in which Muslims have been removed from flights for allegedly suspicious behavior. Just last week the AP reported that nine Muslim passengers were kicked off an AirTran flight based on certain remarks they made.
In 2006, the New York Times reported that six Muslim imams were removed from a US Airways flight after they allegedly engaged in suspicious behavior. The suspicious behavior apparently included their prayers at the gate.
Travelers should also be aware of another airline and government security practice that of passenger pre-screening and no-fly lists. FindLaw columnist Anita Ramasastry discussed in a commentary how JetBlue provided 5 million passenger itineraries to a private defense contractor, possibly in violation of the law.
Congress has not been blind to the lawsuits spawned by incidents such as those endured by Raed Jarrar and the imams. However, as noted by the AP in 2007, Congress's response was to pass a bill immunizing people who report suspicious behavior to airlines and officials.