Somali taxi drivers at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport come up twice in New Threats to Freedom, a lively but uneven collection of 30 essays assembled by HarperCollins executive editor Adam Bellow. Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens cites them to illustrate “the absurdity and potential risk — the threat to freedom — of confusing group rights with civil rights.” Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, blames the taxi drivers for “the most widely acknowledged case of Shariah imposition so far known.”
What exactly did these Muslim cabbies do? According to Schwartz, “they would not take airport arrival passengers carrying alcohol or accompanied by dogs (including guide dogs for blind customers), on the grounds that for them to do so would violate Shariah.” Per airport rules, the drivers had to go to the back of the taxi line every time they refused a fare. In other words, they paid a price in lost income for abiding by what they (correctly or not) believed to be an important religious injunction.