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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Muslim Cabbies & Guide Dogs for Blind: The Media Twist


In this story, we find another example of how the media twists facts and sensationalizes stories. Unfortunately, the twisting is usually in the negative direction for Muslims. So, these poor Muslim cab-drivers were accused all over the media and the net for refusing to pick up blind folks and their guide-dogs, even by many Muslims (the recent CAIR-suing-passenger case comes to mind). You see that story made for interesting news. It caused outrage, because it pitted Muslims on one side and handicapped, blind people on the other. Who do you think won? No prizes for guessing it right.

BUT, the problem is that this was never the case. These cabbies are screaming that they never refused such a ride, that someone in their imagination build a case based on this logic:

Muslims considers dogs impure.
These cabbies are Muslims.
So, Muslim cabbies would refuse dogs into their cabs.

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The logical fallacies in this are obvious, for instance, this fails to take into account: what do Muslims consider impure in dogs? Are there exceptions? Is there any evidence of such a refusal? Well, no one cared to ask the cabbies, because they insist that there was no refusal, rendering the first two questions redundant!

So, these Muslim cab-drivers are making their own statement. FREE RIDES to all blind people AND their dogs. What a great idea! Bust the myth AND double it up with some good Samaritan stuff. And yet, the official story on this had to throw in some disclaimers and how the National Foundation of Blind’s MN chapter gave it a cool reception. Who cares what reception they gave? The point is that the media messed up in previous accounts and demonized these cab-drivers. And they can’t fess up and quite swallow their pride yet. So, mad PROPS to the Minneapolis Muslim cab-drivers for doing the right thing and a little more!


Muslim cabbies offer free rides for the blind and their dogs

Muslim cabdrivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, under fire for allegedly refusing service to some people on religious grounds, are offering blind people and their guide dogs free rides during an upcoming convention.

About 300 cabbies are volunteering to provide the free rides, hoping to counter the perception that the cabbies are refusing to pick up passengers with service dogs, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced Thursday.

However, Joyce Scanlan, the president of the National Federation of the Blind’s Minnesota Chapter, which is organizing a convention April 21, gave the idea a cool reception, saying she would prefer the cabdrivers simply do their jobs.

“We really are uncomfortable with that, with the offer of getting free rides. We don’t think that solves anything,” Scanlan said. “We believe the cabdrivers need to realize that the law says they will not turn down a blind person.”

Valerie Shirley, a spokeswoman for CAIR’s Minnesota chapter, said Muslim cabbies at the airport claim such refusals never took place.

“They say this has never been an issue. They don’t know where this came from,” Shirley said. “They would really like a driver name, or a driver’s number, of who did this (refused a blind passenger). In Islamic law, it’s not permissible to turn away someone who is blind or has another disability, whether or not they have an animal.”

Scanlan said her organization’s clients have complained several times about cabbies not picking them up if they have guide dogs.

“It is an issue. I’ve heard about the Islamic cabdrivers at the airport,” she said, adding that blind passengers face problems from non-Muslim cabbies in other areas of the city, as well.

Many Muslims believe dogs to be impure, based on interpretations of the Quran.

Airport spokesman Pat Hogan said that in the past several years there have been three formal complaints to the airport about people and their guide dogs being refused rides.

Officials at the Metropolitan Airports Commission are considering stiffer penalties for cabbies who refuse fares. A hearing to discuss the penalties followed reports that airport cabbies – roughly three-quarters of whom are Muslim – refused for religious reasons to transport passengers carrying alcohol.

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. ibnabeeomar

    April 4, 2007 at 10:34 AM

    alhamdulillah if this is all that the media has left to write about Muslims!! :)

  2. AnonyMouse

    April 4, 2007 at 1:01 PM

    Okay, that article was just *annoying* – because it tried to so hard to still make things bad for the Muslim cabbies!!! Subhan’Allah!!!

    May Allah reward these brothers, ameen!

  3. Abu Bakr

    April 4, 2007 at 1:47 PM

    this is going to sound dumb, but how do blind people know that the “cab” that just passed them by without offering them service is a muslim’s?

  4. Amad

    April 4, 2007 at 2:27 PM

    I don’t think it was the blind people who were making the noise about not getting rides… it was more the media, probably based on some right-wing blog theory…

    I am guessing this to be similar to what happened with CAIR in California where Senator Boxer rescinded her award to a CAIR activist. These blogs have a lot of power, and that is why Muslims need to harness it… alhamdulillah like MM and many others.

  5. Shahzad

    April 4, 2007 at 3:00 PM

    Media sensationalism aside, I think there are some real issues and opportunities here.

    If I was a muttaqi (God fearing) cabbie, I would definitely face situations that would require “Islamic decision-making”: Should I give a ride to someone of the opposite sex? Should I transport alcohol? Should I drive someone to a strip club? And so on. Browse through Islamic fatwa websites and you’ll see how the scholars apply the concept of “not helping in evil” to many situations.

    To me the real question is, if I was a Muslim cabbie, what would be my source of Islamic guidance contextual to my profession in this society? Rather than everyone making their own decisions, wouldn’t it be great is there was some sort of communication mechanism (association, website, newsletter?) that Muslim cabbies can use to share experiences and form consensus on issues? Even non-Muslims would benefit from these mechanisms by having a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.

  6. Ruth Nasrullah

    April 4, 2007 at 8:47 PM

    Asalaamu alaikum. This story has been going on for quite a while, and it’s been reported in multiple reputable media outlets that some Muslim cabbies in Minneapolis have in fact refused fares carrying alcohol or accompanied by dogs. Nowhere have I read anyone, including Muslims, deny that it has happened except as quoted by the CAIR-MN rep quoted above.

  7. Amad

    April 4, 2007 at 9:02 PM

    That is how the media spin works… remember the swift boat story and Kerry? Every “reputable” media outlet carried it… but few verified the facts.

    The alcohol case is different and is still pending some judgment I believe. But as for dogs, the only credible information is about the “three formal” complaints in “several years” per the airport spokesman– that just isn’t enough to make the sweeping statements.

  8. Abul-Hussein

    April 5, 2007 at 11:04 PM


    Thanks for posting this article I had heard about it all the way in Egypt, can you believe that.

    The article brings up an important issue and that is that the Muslims in the West are struggling to deal with life in the West.

    It is the case, that the majority of scholars say that dogs are unclean. There is something to be realized there are point in fiqh works that are picked out and fussed over to make Muslims look bad and also there are fiqh points that Muslims refer to which make life in the West difficult.

    To bring clarity to the matter. There were two media events that involved Muslims and dogs.

    Firstly, let us look at the dominant culture of the West which is home to many of us. We have to remember symbolically and emotionally the dog holds a high standing among animal lovers in the West and in the general culture of the West.

    Secondly, let us look at this matter in a context. Sometime ago Dr. Khaled Abou Al-Fadl was photographed with a picture of a black dog while wearing a Morrocan garment. Dr. Khaled did this to exhibit his understanding of fiqh. He knows that the Malikis dont consider dogs unclean so living in the West and being on a mission to give a positive image of Islam he advertised this act. He posed with a black dog and made clear he followed the Maliki opinion this was a statement that he is flexible and can accomodate to life in the West and still use Islamic Jurisprudence to do so. I dont want to get into who Dr. Abou Al-Fadl is that is not the discussion. But one thing is sure that he illustrated the understanding of fiqh of minorities and gave proof that we can abide by islamic jurisprudence and live in the West.

    So this is important to define ourselves Islamic and correctly and doing it in a way that serves Islam without going against Islam and also while teaching others Islam.

    We have to be careful what we claim to be the case about Islam and how to live as Muslims in the West because we can do more harm than good and people will use that against da’wah to Allah {swt}.

    The example, of Dr. Khaled was very good in that it showed that somethings are not black and white and it showed the breadth of Islam. And helped us in da’wah.

    On the other hand, some have used the ruling on dogs in a bad way to taunt the Muslims and to show we are intolerant and animal haters. So the hadith about killing dogs is mentioned. Likewise, pictures of soilders and dogs in Abu Ghuraib were taken and put into the media.

    Only a person who studies Islam well knows the symbolic value of a black dog and dogs in general in Islamic tradition. In this case the dog was used to taunt Muslims.

    In the same case the dog is used to show that Muslims are not only inflexible and inconsiderate of blind people they are animal haters, the enemies of fido and the helpless.

    Two things, we can learn from this event:

    1.] We need to understand how to apply fiqh in the West and be the people who explain Islam. Be a people of knowledge and da’wah.

    2.] We need to be involved in social work so that people see the ettiquette of islam and how the Muslims benefit society. This should be done in a spirit of concern and da’wah for the sake of Allah {swt}.

    Unto now people only understand with the exception of the few that Islam means terrorism and war and is the enemy of the West. In addition, they see Muslims are intolerant, enemies of freedom and totalitarian and militant.

    Traditionally, the world was divided into two parts [in fiqh books] the abode of islam and the abode of war this division entered fiqh not from the Qur’an and Sunnah but from the opinion of Imam Muhammad Hasan Ash Shaybani {r} who said this to the Khalifa at his time when asked what was the state of the Muslim empire. This was a political designation used in a certain time period it entered fiqh through this event and then became part of fiqh.

    Imam Shafi {r} added a third category he said: the world is also divided according to the above divisions and added the abode of agreement or treaty.

    So according to what was said above there are three abodes:
    1.] Abode of Islam
    2.] Abode of War
    3.] Abode of treaty

    This division of the world into two parts was used by Henry Kissenger to criticize Islam and to claim Muslims are warmongers and that has been the claim dfor quite a while some even make the argument Islam spread by the sword.

    This understanding is very problematic, the understanding of fiqh as a dead system that we just mimic without understanding its relation to life. This has caused problems in our ability to function, adapt and deal with life and its issues and has even caused division between Muslims. The problem is not fiqh but our approach so we have to study hard and be scholarly and use fiqh to solve problems and address issues and understand the reasoning behind what scholars said and the proofs and whether what was said is applicable. This is not the task of everyone but of the people of knowledge and the students of knowledge. So education and educational institutions are important and this is what we should focus on so we deal with issues correctly.

    On the other hand, tradition also divides the world into nations two nations in fact:

    1.] the nation that needs the da’wah to Allah {swt}
    2.] The nation that has repsonded to da’wah the da’wah to Allah {swt}

    This is our position and a position which we need to take while living in the West.

    Likewise, Imam Mawardi {r}says that wherever you are free to practice Deen –pray, fast, give zakah and make hajj that is “Dar Al-Islam”
    [See: Ahkam As-Sultaniyyah [its in english].

    Being people of da’wah is crucial at this stage most people dont understand what Islam is and they are being mislead. Even the Muslims in general dont understand, they understand neither Islam well nor how to live in the West. This is creating major issues.

    Rather, than waste time fighting with each other we ought promote the reality and truth of Islam in a way that is based on what is agreed upon and what will benefit people.

    Until now we have based da’wah on the most controversial matters among Muslims and have adopted positions which do not help us to grow as a community or nation of da’wah in the West.

    Let us look to what is agreed upon first and secondly to how we can serve da’wah and thirdly how can we build good relations with people as the Prophet {saw} did.

    If we recall the Prophet {saw} had a Jewish neighbor that would torment him daily and in yet he treated that neighbor justly.

    No one is being asked to forget the plight of the Muslims nor to compromise Islam the request here is that we teach Islam correctly and in a way that serves Islam even if we suffer for it as the Sahaba {r} suffered to teach and as the Prophet {saw} suffered. The key it to teach and live Islam, teach the people and do it with wisdom and kindness.

    Allahu Al’am


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  10. Sulayman

    April 24, 2007 at 6:20 AM

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing!

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