Listen you fuckers, you boozehounds…


Daniel Pipes needs a stiff drink after the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) of Minneapolis-St. Paul comes up with what appears at first to be a reasonable compromise between airport customers taking cabs home and Muslim drivers who refuse to take passengers carrying bottles of booze:

With this in mind, MAC proposed a pragmatic solution: drivers unwilling to carry alcohol could get a special color light on their car roofs, signaling their views on alcohol to taxi starters and customers alike. From the airport's point of view, this scheme offers a sensible and efficient mechanism to resolve a minor irritant, leaving no passenger insulted and no driver losing business. "Airport authorities are not in the business of interpreting sacred texts or dictating anyone's religious choices," Hogan points out. "Our goal is simply to ensure travelers at [the airport] are well served." Awaiting approval only from the airport's taxi advisory committee, the two-light proposal will likely be in operation by the end of 2006.

But on a societal level, the proposed solution has massive and worrisome implications. Namely, the two-light plan intrudes the Shari'a, or Islamic law, with state sanction, into a mundane commercial transaction in Minnesota. A government authority thus sanctions a signal as to who does or does not follow Islamic law.

What of taxi drivers beyond those at MSP? Other Muslims in Minneapolis-St. Paul and across the country could well demand the same privilege. Bus conductors might follow suit. The whole transport system could be divided between those Islamically observant and those not so.

Why stop with alcohol? Muslim taxi drivers in several countries already balk at allowing seeing-eye dogs in their cars. Future demands could include not transporting women with exposed arms or hair, homosexuals, and unmarried couples. For that matter, they could ban men wearing kippas, as well as Hindus, atheists, bartenders, croupiers, astrologers, bankers, and quarterbacks.

The tempting answer is Yes, pious fools should be allowed to turn down all those fares, and presumably go home emptyhanded at the end of their shifts. (Ironically, refusing to take drinkers in your cab also deprives you of the teetotaller's only pleasure: doing a slow burn of superiority and disdain at the drunken slobs whose lives are in your hands.) But all solutions become impossible once a regulatory agency is involved. The airport commission sets standards for correct and non-discriminatory service, which makes the reasonable response outlined above technically impossible. The only way the MAC has found this compromise solution is by carving out a fake exception to its own mandate. As Pipes indicates, once you've carved out one of those, new and more absurd exceptions can be expected to follow.

Just how and how much alcohol is forbidden in Islam is always a source of controversy, but Hadiths like the following don't seem to leave much ground for negotiation:

Allah's Messenger cursed ten people in connection with wine: the wine-presser, the one who has it pressed, the one who drinks it, the one who conveys it, the one to whom it is conveyed, the one who serves it, the one who sells it, the one who benefits from the price paid for it, the one who buys it, and the one for whom it is bought.

Taking that as your yardstick (and there are other possible yardsticks), it appears the anti-booze drivers weren't showing an exaggerated piety but following the rules they're supposed to be following.