“I will not be silent”

Recently Raed Jarrar, an Arab-American architect, was prevented from boarding a plane at JFK because he was wearing a t-shirt with Arabic script on it. Was the message some anti-American screed or pro-terrorism propaganda? No, it was a simple message that even included a convenient English translation: “I will not be silent”. Here’s more on what happened.

Soon after, a thread was started on DegreeDiscussion, a forum for talking about distance learning, higher education, and accreditation, but which also often delves into a wide variety of off-topic subjects. I was surprised and dismayed that this collection of intelligent, educated people all responded either neutrally or against Mr. Jarrar. It seems that there is support for the idea that people have a right not to be offended and that their ignorant prejudices should be coddled.

I can’t help but wonder, if Western society accepts condemnation of those who are different, isn’t its difference from a society based on Sharia no longer one of kind but only of degree? It is precisely to the extent that we do not act that way that gives us the moral high ground. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that people with minority opinions in the West have a great deal more freedom of expression than people in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and many other places. But when it comes to liberty, it’s not about outrunning the other guy — it’s about outrunning the bear.

As for me, I have ordered a similar t-shirt for myself and will wear it next month when I travel to attend the Pan-Commonwealth Forum in Jamaica. I expect that as a native speaker of English my experience will differ from Mr. Jarrar’s, but at least it means that I too will not be silent.