Westerners opposed to the application of the Islamic law (the Shari‘a) watch with dismay as it goes from strength to strength
in their countries – harems increasingly accepted, a church leader
endorsing Islamic law, a judge referring to the Koran, clandestine
Muslim courts meting out justice. What can be done to stop the progress
of this medieval legal system so deeply at odds with modern life, one
that oppresses women and turns non-Muslims into second-class citizens?
A first step is for
Westerners to mount a united front against the Shari‘a. Facing
near-unanimous hostility, Islamists back down. For one example, note
the retreat last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR) in a dispute concerning guide dogs used by the blind.
consider dogs impure animals to be avoided, creating an aversion that
becomes problematic when Muslim store-owners or taxi drivers deny
service to blind Westerners relying on service dogs. I have collected
15 such cases on my weblog, at "Muslim Taxi Drivers vs. Seeing-Eye Dogs":
five from the United States (New Orleans, Cincinnati, Milwaukee,
Brooksville, Fl.; Everett, Wash.); four from Canada (Vancouver, twice
in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Alberta); three from the United Kingdom
(Cambridge, twice in London); two from Australia (Melbourne, Sydney);
and one from Norway (Oslo).
News accounts quote
Muslim cabbies rudely rejecting blind would-be passengers, yelling at
them, "No dog, No dog, Get out, get out"; "Get that dog out of here";
and "No dogs, no dogs." The blind find themselves rejected, humiliated,
abandoned, insulted, or even injured, left in the rain, dropped in the
middle of nowhere, made late for an appointment, or caused to miss a
organizations initially responded to this problem by supporting
anti-canine cabbies. The Muslim Association of Canada pointed out how
Muslims generally regard dog saliva as unclean. CAIR on one occasion
echoed this assertion, claiming that "the saliva of dogs invalidates
the ritual purity needed for prayer." On another, the head of CAIR, Nihad Awad,
declared that "People from the Middle East especially … have been
indoctrinated with a kind of fear of dogs" and justified a driver
rejecting a guide dog on the grounds that he "has a genuine fear and he
acted in good faith. He acted in accordance with his religious beliefs."
Australian Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes and his guide dog. Innes is often denied service by taxi drivers.
However, when the
police and the courts are called in, the legal rights of the blind to
their basic needs and their dignity almost always trump the Muslim
dislike for dogs. The Muslim proprietor or driver invariably finds
himself admonished, fined, re-educated, warned, or even jailed. The
judge who found a cabby's behavior to be "a total disgrace" spoke for
CAIR, realizing that
its approach had failed in the courts of both law and of public
opinion, suddenly and nimbly switched sides. In a cynical maneuver, for
example, it organized 300 cabbies in Minneapolis
to provide free rides for participants at a National Federation of the
Blind conference. (Unconvinced by this obvious ploy, a federation
official responded: "We really are uncomfortable … with the offer of
getting free rides. We don't think that solves anything. We believe the
cabdrivers need to realize that the law says they will not turn down a
blind person.") And, finally, last week, the Canadian office of CAIR
issued a statement urging Muslims to accommodate blind taxi passengers,
quoting a board member that "Islam allows for dogs to be used by the
contains an important lesson: When Westerners broadly agree on
rejecting a specific Islamic law or tradition and unite against it,
Western Islamists must adjust to the majority's will. Guide dogs for
the blind represent just one of many such consensus issues; others tend
to involve women, such as husbands beating wives, the burqa head coverings, female genital mutilation, and "honor" killings. Western unity can also compel Islamists to denounce their preferred positions in areas such as slavery and Shar‘i-compliant finances.
practices do not (yet) exist in the West but do prevail in the Muslim
world. These include punishing a woman for being raped, exploiting children as suicide bombers, and executing offenders for such crimes as converting out of Islam, adultery, having a child out of wedlock, or witchcraft. Western solidarity can win concessions in these areas too.
If Westerners stick together, the Shari‘a is doomed. If we do not, we are doomed.