Daniel Pipes is angry at Muslims — again. Yes, I know: Daniel Pipes is always angry at Muslims. Usually, though, he reserves that anger for so-called Islamofascists in the Middle East. Today Pipes is steamed over a seemingly small domestic matter: taxi cabs.
You see, there are Muslim cabbies who service the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and — horror of horrors — some of them take their religion seriously enough to refuse to transport passengers who are carrying alcohol, for the Koran forbids not just imbibing but also transporting the devil’s brew. Worse yet, the Metropolitan Airports Commission is attempting to accommodate the Muslims’ religious beliefs in a peaceful, unthreatening fashion — anathema to a nuke-the-towelheads type like Pipes.
As things currently stand under MAC rules, any cabbie who refuses a fare has to go to the back of the line, at which point it may take hours for him to get back to the terminal. Therefore, a Muslim driver who turns down a passenger because of the passenger’s cargo is at a significant disadvantage. Thus we see that the cause of the problem in the first place is the government’s rule, which Pipes does not propose repealing, that cab drivers may not refuse fares without suffering a severe penalty.
Muslim taxi drivers then petitioned MAC for an exception to the rule so that they could avoid violating their faith without being punished by banishment to the end of the line. MAC denied their request. Government strikes again.
Nevertheless, MAC proposed a compromise: "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," writes Pipes. "From the airport’s point of view," he continues, "this scheme offers a sensible and efficient mechanism to resolve a minor irritant, leaving no passenger insulted and no driver losing business," especially since about "three-quarters of MSP’s 900 cabdrivers" are Muslims.
While this is, as is often the case, an instance of government’s trying to resolve one problem it created by piling on another regulation, it does seem reasonable enough and, of all amazing things, actually protects the property rights of the Muslim cabbies, who are not forced to allow into their private vehicles persons they do not wish to transport. Who could object?
Daniel Pipes could — and does. He writes that the proposed solution "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."
Yes, allowing Muslims to express their religious views in public and to use their private property as they see fit is, in the mind of Pipes, equivalent to forcing Islamic law on the rest of us.
In this the neoconservative Pipes is perfectly aligned with the liberal New York Times, which just this week has run a four-part series of lengthy articles decrying the fact that government fails to tax and regulate Christians — the Times’ equivalent of Pipes’s Muslims — sufficiently. Why, those dastardly Bible-thumpers don’t have to pay nearly as many taxes as the Times thinks they should in order to support the welfare state, nor do they have to subject their private property to all the antidiscrimination rules that the rest of the country does (and should, as far as the Times is concerned)! How dare these religious people, say both Pipes and the Times, be left alone to live out their dangerous, frightening faith in peace!
Pipes frets that proceeding with MAC’s compromise could have a domino effect among Muslim taxi, bus, boat, and train operators, leading to a "whole transport system . . . divided between those Islamically observant and those not so." Furthermore, he says,
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.
If Muslims own the taxis, buses, trains, etc., then why shouldn’t they be permitted to accept or reject any prospective passenger, just as any other vehicle owner should be? (Yes, I know there are all kinds of horrid laws across the country intruding on transporters’ rights to do just that, so don’t bother e-mailing me with all the laws that supposedly enshrine "nondiscrimination" as a bedrock American principle. I’m talking right versus wrong here, not legal versus illegal.) Isn’t this preferable to an endless war of non-Muslims against Muslims, and vice versa, in which each side attempts to use the iron fist of the state to coerce the other into doing what the opposing side thinks best?
Neither Islamic nor Jewish nor Christian nor Hindu nor atheist law need be imposed on anyone. Simply respect the rights of property owners to do with their property as they see fit. No one has a right to ride in anyone else’s vehicle, and neither does anyone have the right to force someone to transport a passenger he does not wish to transport. What a simple, peaceful, elegant solution to the whole problem!
Even better than adopting MAC’s proposed solution would be to privatize the airport and then leave the decisions about how to handle Muslim cabbies and the taxi queue to the new owner. I suspect that the owner would quickly come to a better arrangement with all the drivers than the current system and would surely do everything possible to ensure the best conditions for both cabbies and airport passengers, thus obviating the need for further government regulation to resolve a problem government created in the first place.
For Pipes and his ilk, fear of a strange religion and the need to maintain government regulations prohibiting discrimination and even hurt feelings — as Pipes notes, passengers who are turned down by Muslim cabbies "often feel surprised and insulted" — trump Muslims’ property rights every time. Furthermore, antagonism toward Muslims is, in their minds, always preferable to peaceful coexistence, hence their support for war not just on the entire Middle East but on otherwise peaceful taxi drivers in that hotbed of Islamofascism, Minnesota.
The editor of CNSNews.com added a note to the column stating that Pipes’s piece had generated such an "overwhelmingly negative public response" that MAC’s plan was rejected just days after the column was first published. It appears that Pipes and his fellow travelers have gotten their way — and yet another nail is driven into the coffin of liberty by the very people who claim to be fighting for it both in America and around the world.
Michael Tennant [send him mail] is a software developer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.