An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Perils of Immigrants' Value Imposition

Inconveniencing the public because of your own religious beliefs can be very annoying.. here is an example of one such incident on how the Muslims want to push their religious beliefs wherever they are.. even to the extent that they would not take passengers who bought liquor from duty-free in their cabs!! That is extreme.. but then this is America!

But it is in that quintessential nation of immigrants, the United States, that the debate over Muslim separatism will resound most loudly. I don’t know if the incident was covered in Indian newspapers but a minor issue at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport became a darling of conservative talk-shows in the United States.

It turns out that many of the cab drivers at the airport are Muslim immigrants. A section of them started refusing to take passengers who were carrying alcohol (which, of course, is a staple of duty-free shops in every international airport). They tried to justify this by quoting the Koran, which bans the consumption of liquor.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission offered what it thought would be a ‘pragmatic’ solution, special roof lights for Muslim taxi drivers. This proved to be the last straw, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission was inundated with angry messages, asking why a secular body was giving the green signal (literally so!) to a Shariat ordinance.

One American wrote in asking if the same cab drivers would refuse to take him because he was carrying a hamburger (pig meat being forbidden in Islam). Several women sarcastically demanded whether they would need to cover themselves before sitting in a taxi.

Confronted with such protests, the Metropolitan Airports Commission withdrew its proposal. But the result of the brouhaha was a further deterioration in the image of Islam in the minds of ordinary Americans.

Minnesota, the state in question, has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold. It was, for instance, the only one of the 50 states that Ronald Reagan could not carry in the 1984 presidential election. But a few weeks ago, in the teeth of the anti-Bush wave, Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Carol Molnau were elected as governor and lieutenant governor of liberal Minnesota.

By the way, Minneapolis-St Paul is scheduled to host the Republican National Convention in 2008, the one that will select the party candidate for the presidency of the United States. The attitude of the taxi drivers is thus guaranteed to draw national attention.

At about the same time that the Metropolitan Airports Commission was beating a retreat in America, the head of the British intelligence agency MI5 was delivering a public warning about Muslim immigrants in the United Kingdom. Speaking at Queen Mary College, London, on November 10, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller grimly stated, ‘The extremists are motivated by a sense of grievance and injustice driven by their interpretation of the history between the West and the Muslim world. This view is shared, in some degree, by a far wider constituency. If the opinion polls conducted in the UK since July 2005 are only broadly accurate, over 100,000 of our citizens consider that the July 2005 attacks in London were justified.’

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