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.
On Oct. 6, the Daily Mail of London reported that two cab drivers had been fined for rejecting blind customers. In Melbourne, Australia, "at least 20 dog-aided blind people have lodged discrimination complaints" after similarly being refused service, the Herald Sun reported.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, wrote about the MAC's two-light proposal 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.
When a job puts someone in conflict with their religious beliefs, discrimination on the job is never an appropriate response. Once one group, be it Christians who refuse to dispense birth control or Muslims who refuse to accept certain passengers are given a free pass to discriminate then all groups must be allowed to discriminate based on their religious beliefs.
Once that happens, all sort of bigotry would flourish under the name of religious freedom.