Monday, October 16, 2006

A teachable moment

Katie's column today begins:

Imagine you're returning from a trip with a bottle of French wine to celebrate your wedding anniversary. At the airport, you drag your bags out to the taxi stand in the cold breeze. As the cab pulls up, you hoist your suitcases, eager to get home.

But when the driver spots your wine, he shakes his head emphatically. The Qur'an prohibits him from accepting passengers with alcohol, he tells you. OK, so you'll take the next cab. But the next driver waves you off, and the next.

Well, of course Katie is really carrying a jug of sacramental wine and some things that look like Carr's Table Water Crackers, but never mind. And never mind that there are always fifty cabs lined up and a cab starter to help you find one.

Katie sees real danger in allowing Somali cabbies to refuse patrons carrying alcohol:

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, wrote about the MAC's two-light proposal [to allow the Somali cabbies to identify themselves as not accepting passengers with that big sack of spirits from the duty-free shop] in the New York Sun on the day its rejection was announced. While the proposal seemed like a common-sense compromise, he wrote, on a societal level, it has massive and troubling implications. Government sanction of a two-tiered cab system would amount to an acknowledgement that Shari'a, or Islamic law, is relevant to a routine commercial transaction in the Twin Cities. The MAC, a government agency, would be officially approving a signal that differentiates those who follow Islamic law from those who don't.

And what if Muslim drivers demand the right not to transport women wearing short skirts or tank tops, or unmarried couples? After taxis, why not buses, trains and planes? Eventually, in some respects, our society could be divided along religious lines. [italics are Spot's]

And what if, Katie, a southern lunch counter owner put up a sign in the window that read "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"? We've been through this before. Let's take Katie's hypotheticals, women wearing short skirts or tank tops, or unmarried couples, just a little further. Does an orthodox Jew have to carry a man eating a bratwurst? Or a conservative Christian a couple of guys in killer sweaters and holding hands? Or maybe even a mixed race couple?

Katie is on to something here, but Spot is afraid she'll miss the teachable moment entirely. What, Katie, is the source of the Somalis' objection to carrying passengers with alcohol? You identified it earlier: Shari'a law, enshrined in the Quran. The Quran is, of course, a holy book that not everyone subscribes to. Sort of like the Bible, or parts of it anyway.

Katie, there are people, many Christians even, who think your hysterical wailing about gays is the same kind of superstitious reading of an old book, a bigotry unworthy of the modern age. Not at all unlike a religious aversion to alcohol.


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