Muslim Brotherhood behind Minnesota airport taxi dispute

 

Star Tribune  

 

Airport taxi flap about alcohol has deeper significance 

Airport taxi flap about alcohol has deeper significance 

The airport taxi controversy may go deeper than the quandary over whether to accommodate Somali Muslim cabdrivers who refuse to carry passengers carrying alcohol. Behind the scenes, a struggle for power and religious authority is apparently playing out.

 

The taxi controversy at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has caught the nation's attention. But the dispute may go deeper than the quandary over whether to accommodate Somali Muslim cabdrivers who refuse to carry passengers carrying alcohol. Behind the scenes, a struggle for power and religious authority is apparently playing out.

 At the Starbucks coffee shop in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a favorite Somali gathering spot, holidaymakers celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan, filled the tables on Monday. Several taxis were parked outside.

An animated circle of Somalis gathered when the question of the airport controversy was raised.

 "I was surprised and shocked when I heard it was an issue at the airport," said Faysal Omar. "Back in Somalia, there was never any problem with taking alcohol in a taxi."

Jama Dirie said, "If a driver doesn't pick up everyone, he should get his license canceled and get kicked out of the airport."

 

Two of the Somalis present defended the idea that Islam prohibits cabdrivers from transporting passengers with alcohol. An argument erupted. The consensus seemed to be that only a small number of Somalis object to transporting alcohol. It's a matter of personal opinion, not Islamic law, several men said.

 

Ahmed Samatar, a nationally recognized expert on Somali society at Macalester College, confirmed that view. "There is a general Islamic prohibition against drinking," he said, "but carrying alcohol for people in commercial enterprise has never been forbidden. There is no basis in Somali cultural practice or legal tradition for that.

 

"This is one of those new concoctions."It is being foisted on the Somali community by an inside or outside group," he added. "I do not know who."

 

But many Somali drivers at the airport are refusing to carry passengers with alcohol. When I asked Patrick Hogan, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman, for his explanation, he forwarded a fatwa, or religious edict, that the MAC had received. The fatwa proclaims that "Islamic jurisprudence" prohibits taxi drivers from carrying passengers with alcohol, "because it involves cooperating in sin according to the Islam."

 

The fatwa, dated June 6, 2006, was issued by the "fatwa department" of the Muslim American Society, Minnesota chapter, and signed by society officials.

 

The society is mediating the conflict between the cab drivers and the MAC. That seems odd, since the society itself clearly has a stake in the controversy's outcome.

 How did the MAC connect with the society? "The Minnesota Department of Human Rights recommended them to us to help us figure out how to handle this problem," Hogan said.

Omar Jamal, director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, thinks he knows why the society is promoting a "no-alcohol-carry" agenda with no basis in Somali culture. "MAS is an Arab group; we Somalis are African, not Arabs," he said. "MAS wants to polarize the world, create two camps.

 

I think they are trying to hijack the Somali community for their Middle East agenda. They look for issues they can capitalize on, like religion, to rally the community around. The majority of Somalis oppose this, but they are vulnerable because of their social and economic situation."

The society

 

What is the Muslim American Society? In September 2004 the Chicago Tribune published an investigative article. The society was incorporated in 1993, the paper reported, and is the name under which the U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood operates.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. The Tribune described the Brotherhood as "the world's most influential Islamic fundamentalist group."Because of its hard-line beliefs, the U.S. Brotherhood has been an increasingly divisive force within Islam in America, fueling the often bitter struggle between moderate and conservative Muslims," the paper reported.

 The international Muslim Brotherhood "preaches that religion and politics cannot be separated and that governments eventually should be Islamic," according to the Tribune. U.S. members emphasize that they follow American laws, but want people here to convert to Islam so that one day a majority will support a society governed by Islamic law.  

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