Thursday, January 11, 2007

Revisiting the Minneapolis Airport

A little while back I analyzed a controversy at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in which some Somali cab drivers were refusing to serve passengers who were carrying (unopened) containers of alcohol. The story has advanced a little bit. Youssef Ibrahim, a distinguished journalist and believer in the separation of church (and mosque) and state who has covered the oil markets and Arab affairs for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, has an op-ed piece in The New York Sun that asserts that Muslim pressure groups are agitating for the airport authorities to accept the drivers' refusal.

I argued previously that while these drivers have a right to solicit taxi fares as much as people holding any other sorts of beliefs, they also had to bear the costs these preferences impose on others. I thus suggested they be forced, if they get to the front of the line and refuse to take the passenger awaiting them, that they go back to the back of the line. A poster named knucklehead took me to task in the comments section for analyzing this situation in abstract terms rather than concrete ones. And I confess I have certainly given some thought to the wisdom of my position. If Mr. Ibrahim is to be believed, 75 percent of the cab drivers are now Somalis, many apparently adhering to this Islamic pseudo-taboo (based on a fatwa by one Minnesota imam), while some passengers have been forced to wait an hour.

One can morally reason from principles or from consequences. In the last post I did the former, while knucklehead (at least initially) did the latter. I am generally convinced that the first approach is the best, in part because adherence to sound principles leads to the best consequences. I also believe that part of the reason that the current approach has led to such long waits is precisely because it is free – you get to the front of the line and are able to wave passengers away with no consequence. But I admit the new developments gave me pause.

But what is most disturbing about them is the ready acceptance by Muslim pressure groups that cab drivers have a right to costlessly impose the consequences of their beliefs on others. This is the standard technique of tribal pressure – you accommodate me, I need not accommodate you. Mr. Ibrahim scornfully quotes someone named Damon Drake, a representative of the tribalist pressure group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (why would Muslims in America need to separately “relate” to their own land?) as saying that the drivers should be free to refuse passengers as they like: “Now that the Muslims are here,” he opines, “they need to be accommodated.”

Along the same lines, the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (what is it about the Twin Cities?) quotes one Fuad Ali, whom it uncritically identifies as "a Somali leader," as rejecting (in reaction to an incident in which several imams ostentatiously prayed in the gate area prior to boarding a flight, whereupon they were subsequently questioned by law enforcement) the airport's proposed solution – that the airport establish a common prayer/meditation room for all. Mr. Ali argues that "Where you have Christians and Muslims praying at the same time, it will create a problem."

To which the proper response is, "So what?" There is no future for a multitribal society if its governing institutions must constantly make special arrangements for the peculiar needs, real or opportunistic, of every tribal group. (Some people are also agitating for airport signs in Somali, even though Somalians are far from the largest minority group in Minneapolis.) The airport, if it is to erect such a room at all, simply must make it open to everyone. That some Somalis and their coreligious sympathizers are agitating for separation is perfectly predictable. These leaders' interests require the continued separation of Somalis from the broader society around them, so that they remain dependent on these leaders to represent them in dealing with that society, instead of negotiating the clash of their interests with those of others consensually as individuals in the free market. The integration of Somalis – through their mastery of English, their accommodation of their religious interests to the interests of everyone else, their learning of the possibility of peacefully praying or meditating together with the Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and even – Gasp! – Jews around them is a mortal threat to the livelihood of the separatist leader, and so naturally he counsels against it. (See here for some previous thoughts on a related question.)

Multicultural nihilists regularly talk about the need to build “bridges” between the native culture and a particular immigrant culture, the idea being that a bridge provides a place where the cultures may meet harmoniously. But a bridge is not a place you stay; it is a place you cross on the way somewhere else – to the civilization you have come to because of its superiority, for example. That it is so easy (in the sense of not sounding absurd on their face) for people like Messrs. Ali and Drake to make the demands they make is perhaps the most discouraging aspect of the whole airport episode.



Blogger AmandaLaine said...

Hi Dr. Osborne!

I don't have a response to this particular post but I wanted to say that I love your blog. In the future, I'll most likely respond to some of your actual thoughts on here. So glad you blog! Always glad to hear what you have to say.

8:25 AM  

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