THE SPINE OCTOBER 3, 2006
"It is forbidden in Islam," said Muhamed Mursal, a Muslim cabdriver in Minneapolis-St. Paul, "to carry alcohol." According to an AP dispatch in Sunday's New York Times, he didn't mean his own. He's presumably religious. So he abstains. What he means is that he won't accept passengers who he suspects are carrying liquor. How will he know? Will
he ask his passengers to unpack their baggage? He does pick up his fares at the international airport, after all. Why not?
This is another battle in the culture wars between a liberal society and Islam. The Times tells us that there are hundreds of Muslim cabbies in the Twin Cities who simply won't take people traveling with any kind of booze. So this is not a small matter. The authorities have proposed that cabbies offended by hooch should put a special light on their cars that will signal the potential rider who is carrying a brew that he or she is not wanted. But taxi drivers are licensed public servants. Why should anybody, other than, let's say, someone totally sotted, be denied such a routine service? This is a slippery slope.
Muslim cab drivers may soon be offended by women wearing short skirts or being a bit too décolléte. Then you will find that emergency room physicians won't treat Muslim patients. Or lawyers won't serve them. Or real estate agents won't sell to them. In a liberal society one cannot dictate and should not be able to dictate one's own religious practice to others. This means that one cannot refuse to perform quotidian service vouched for by the state to anyone who is not breaking the law.