Sharia in Minneapolis Update. By Amina Khan for Islam Online, with thanks to Sr. Soph:
MINNEAPOLIS “” A lingering face-off between Muslim cabbies and the Metropolitan Airports Commission in Minneapolis is showing no signs of abating with the drivers defending their action and the authorities threatening tougher penalties.
“This is something that has been going on for many years,” Abdinoor Bolal, a cab driver at the airport, told IslamOnline.net.
“As a Muslim, I cannot carry alcohol, but there are others who would take that passenger, it was not a problem until some conservative groups got hold of the issue.”
The Muslim drivers, mostly of Somali descent, insist that because Islam prohibits transporting alcohol, they cannot take fares from passengers who are carrying alcohol with them.
“There is a system already in place that distinguishes between smoking and non-smoking cabs, as well as cabs which will only take a certain number of passengers, why can’t we do that for those passengers with alcohol?” Bolal asked.
“They are no longer considering any compromises, but instead are punishing us for our beliefs because the airport feels pressure from the public.”
The Metropolitan Airports Commission in Minneapolis is threatening tougher action against the cabbies.
Drivers who refuse service will now face a thirty day suspension for the first refusal, and a two-year revocation for the second refusal, Melissa Scorvronski, the commission’s public affairs coordinator, told IOL.
They will decide whether to adopt the stricter proposals, recommended during a public hearing on February 27, early next week.
Scorvronski noted that currently, if a driver refuses a fare, they will have to go to the back of the line, resulting in a wait time of between two to four hours….
A story that has been widely report is that a Muslim taxi driver had refused service to a blind person with a guide dog on the ground that Islam considers the saliva of a dog is unclean.
“They say blind people have been refused, but this has not been an issue, no one has been able to tell me when and where such an incident took place,” said Bolal.
“They are using this issue to shift public opinion and make us look bad.”
Scorvronski, the airport spokesperson, acknowledged conflicting reports on an incident where a passenger with a guide dog was refused service.
“The taxi drivers have denied it, but the National Federation of the Blind claims that they have refused.”
Meanwhile, it’s all our fault:
Muslim groups also accused the media of exaggerating the issue and taking it out of proportion.
“The media has jumped on the issue to generate animosity and create hate,” charged Hashi Abdi, spokesman for the Somali Action Alliance.
“They are saying that now we have Shari`ah on our shores,” he told IOL, arguing the issue “goes beyond alcohol, it is about a racial issue.”…
The organization has also received complaints about abusive behavior towards drivers by gas station attendants.
“Ever since 9-11, our community has been looked at with suspicion,” Abdi said.
Five years after the terrorist attacks, many American Muslims complain they continue to face discrimination and stereotyping because of their Islamic attires or identities.
The US Senate Office Of Research has said that Arab and Muslim Americans have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society”s Freedom Foundation, said several compromises were put forth such as color coding cabs that will not transport passengers with alcohol.
“But the compromises did not work out since it is public transportation and you cannot impose your religious beliefs on others,” he told IOL.
The Muslim American Society (MAS) has been mediating between the cab drivers and airport’s officials.
Last year, the Minnesota Transit Department sought the counsel of the MAS about the issue.
“They asked us what was the religious basis for refusal, and we told them,” Bray recalled.
He insisted that although the name of the council is the fatwa council “it was not intended at all to be a binding fatwa on all Muslim cab drivers.”
It has been widely reported in the US media that the MAS issued an official fatwa forbidding Muslim cabbies from taking passengers carrying alcohol.
“We only offered religious guidance, and the information was intended to be advisory,” Bray maintained.
“There has been a misrepresentation of our involvement, some right-wingers jumped on this issue and the next thing you know we will be asking to cut off hands and stone women.”
Although MAS supports the cab drivers, “we believe that since they are taking employment in the public sector, it is wrong to deny taking fares from those who may have alcohol, we cannot use religion as a litmus test,” Bray said.
“Our main goal now is to help them keep their jobs, and we also believe that in the concept of Shari`ah, necessity dictates exception.”
At least for now, eh, Mahdi?