I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I am a Mormon, here or anywhere else. But I do my best not to be pushy with that information. Nor do I demand that other people espouse my particular religious beliefs, although I invite those who are interested to investigate and join my church. Notice, though, that I said “invite” and not “force.” My religion doesn’t allow me to force others to convert:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (Article of Faith 11)

Abstinence from alcohol is a fairly well-known tenet of my faith, but the fact that I and other Mormons are forbidden from drinking doesn’t mean that non-Mormons are likewise forbidden. Alcohol abstinence is required for practicing Mormons, but not for non-Mormons — just as eating kosher is required for observant Jews, but not for non-Jews. From my quick searches, it appears that Muslims, too, are required to abstain from certain substances:

“He has forbidden you only carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and that over which name of other than God is invoked; yet whoso is constrained, not revolting nor exceeding limits, no sin is upon him; God is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah 2:173) [emphasis mine - ed]

If I understand this passage correctly, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork, but that constraint is directed specifically at believers, i.e. Muslims. The Qu’ran doesn’t seem to have any injunctions against non-believers who choose to eat pork. And interestingly enough, the commandment to abstain from pork doesn’t appear to be absolute. Sura 5:3 reiterates the forbidden status of pork (among other items), but ends with the following: “However, if any is constrained by hunger, without willfully inclining to sin, then God is Forgiving, Merciful.” So in times of hunger, Allah even allows Muslims to eat pork — as long as they don’t do it along the lines of, “Boy, I sure am hungry. Make mine a bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon.”

While I do not drink alcohol, there is no prohibition against my selling alcohol to others. For instance, I could be a waiter in a restaurant and pour wine for patrons without compromising my faith. I could even be a liquor store attendant or a bartender, although I personally wouldn’t choose these last two careers because I consider them incompatible with my espoused beliefs. How could I recommend a cocktail if I don’t drink? Likewise, in my admittedly quick search of the Qu’ran for information regarding “swine,” I did not come across a verse that forbids contact with pigs or pork products. But it appears that some Muslims in Minnesota have a problem with touching pork and transporting alcohol, to the point that it is affecting their ability to do their jobs.

To summarize the two links above, Muslim taxi drivers at the Minnesota airport have refused to transport people carrying alcohol or using guide dogs (dogs, like pigs, are considered unclean by Muslims), and in some Minnesota supermarkets, Muslim checkers refuse to swipe pork products like bacon. Either the customer must swipe the offending item past the bar-code readers, or another checker is called over to do the job. I have to wonder why Muslims have chosen these jobs if they see a fundamental conflict between carrying out their duties and obeying the tenets of their faith. As pointed out above, you’re not going to find too many Mormon bartenders because most Mormons would see philosophical conflicts between their beliefs and the job requirements. A cab driver’s job is to drive passengers from place to place, be safe and courteous, and collect a fare. If he believes his religion forbids him from picking up certain people even if they can pay the fare, why is he even in that business? Likewise, a cashier’s job is to ring up customers’ purchases. If she cannot or will not handle certain purchases because of religious constraints, why did she choose to take that job? If I’m hired to dig ditches, but I can’t perform the job requirements, why am I in that business? To quote Frank Waturi from Joe Versus the Volcano, “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?” That’s pretty much the question every employer has to ask about a possible new hire. And if the answer is, “He can’t do the whole job because his religion forbids him from doing it,” why is that person even trying for the job?

If these Minnesota Muslim cabbies and checkers were refusing to serve because of some universal Muslim tenet of faith, I could better understand their commitment. However, based on the articles being written, these incidents appear to be happening only in Minnesota. Muslim cabbies and cashiers who live elsewhere seem to have no problem with transporting customers carrying alcohol or swiping pork-based items at the checkout stand. So what exactly is going on? I suspect it has something to do with the social practices of Muslim groups in Minnesota. Remember the “flying imams” who were kicked off their flight because of their peculiar behavior? That was in the Minnesota airport. The imams in question had just attended a gathering in Minneapolis, and I suspect their unusual actions in the airport were triggered by something that took place in that meeting.

This makes three separate incidents in the past few months where Muslims in Minnesota have kicked up a public fuss due to their religious beliefs. I can no longer believe they are merely coincidental. But the next obvious question is: why are they behaving this way? What is the purpose of demonstrating zero-tolerance, in-your-face Islam to non-Muslims? I’m not sure I have a definitive answer, but I do wonder whether we are seeing the first attempt to prepare the United States to accept Shari’a law. If so, the Muslims are taking actions that seem more coercive than persuasive.

UPDATE (4/17/2007 9:34:10 AM): Action is being taken in Minnesota to make sure taxi drivers actually do their job. Based on this report, the Metropolitan Airports Commission has voted for newer and stronger penalties for taxi drivers who refuse to take a fare. They are looking at a 30 day suspension for the first violation and two years for the second violation. Now comes the expected whine of violated rights.

“We see this as a penalty against a group of Americans only for practicing their faith,” said Hassan Mohamud, an imam and an adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law.

But Professor, if doing the job right is a violation of their faith, then why are they even taking the job?