For anyone who wasn't aware, the Patriot sponsored Robert Spencer as a guest speaker at Stony Brook University earlier this week. Overall, I enjoyed the speech and the controversy and debate it sparked, especially in the Q&A session. I'm not going to get into that here, though, because I'm sure the event will be covered in great detail in the November Patriot issue, as well as other student media publications such as the Statesman and Press.
What I want to respond to here is a specific point that Spencer brought up in his talk which I found objectionable after the fact, though unfortunately I didn't think of it at the time and so didn't have the opportunity to challenge him on directly.
Spencer, who is of course famous for his book "Stealth Jihad" makes the point that the leaders of extremist Islam are trying to covertly bring Sharia law into the country. He brought up examples in which the leaders try to implement rules of Sharia under the guise of religious tolerance.
He specifically cited an incident that occurred in St. Paul, Minnesota that sparked controversy. The Muslim (mainly Somali) taxi drivers, at the instigation of their religious leaders, decided that they no longer wanted to carry passengers with alcohol on their person; this violates a passage from Islamic law. As a result, many taxicab drivers began refusing to take on passengers.
A possible solution, which was considered and discarded, was marking the cars that followed Sharia law so people carrying alcohol knew not to take those cabs. This solution was rejected primarily by the taxi companies and the reasons were, of course, economic.
Spencer objected to letting the Muslim taxi drivers get their way on the basis of civil rights. In a way, I understand his point. We tried the whole "separate but equal" thing and the result was a human rights disaster.
However, in the specific case of taxi drivers trying to follow a detail of their religion that they had previously, and most still, ignore, never, I think, in a million years would this escalate into a larger scale adoption of Sharia law in this country. The economics of the thing simply wouldn't allow it.
This is because the group that would have been the happiest about the marking of Sharia cars would have been the non-Muslim cab drivers. It would have meant less competition from their Muslim counterparts, more customers per cabby and so more fairs. The St. Paul airport's concern about increased lines, waiting times and customer frustration was unfounded, at least in the long term. Any entrepreneur exiting the airport would have seen those lines and realized that there's money to be made in the St. Paul taxicab business.
What Spencer perhaps doesn't get, is that market competition would more than make up for the lost cabbies. Taxis aren't some monopolistic government venture; imagine if some entrepreneur would have created a bus line where an individual's race was ignored during the 1960s. Such a business would have prospered from the patronage of the South's black community, especially if they could innovate technologically as well. Racial or religious intolerance doesn't last long when its not institutionalized because there will always be someone who can benefit from an 'integrated' market. In modern day St. Paul, where theoretically anybody can start a taxicab company, no cab driver would adopt a policy that costs them customers, despite religious beliefs.
The Muslim cab drivers would have quickly realized that, by listening to their religious leaders, its costing them in their pockets. Perhaps in Europe, this would cause a riot or two, governments would be forced to compensate cab drivers for the lost fair and sparked a "re-education" initiative to convince Europeans to realize the error of not understanding religious tolerance.
However, this would not happen in America. Capitalism and the spirit of self empowerment for advancement is not quite dead yet. Any person living in this country can make sacrifices for the sake of their religion, but nobody can make others pay for those sacrifices. I that that even the left realizes, to some extent, that if you expect to succeed in this country, you have to do it for yourself. No government is going to make you rich.
Muslim immigrants should understand this as well as any natural born citizen. They know as well as anyone what it takes to get ahead. This is why they're working as cab drivers in the first place. It's probably to save up enough money to send their kids to American universities so that their children can have a better life than they do. No cabbie would give up that American dream for some archaic rule that many religious Muslims don't have a problem with (this issue hasn't come up in any other Western city that I'm aware of).
The point is, that Robert Spencer can be worried about Muslim leaders trying to implement Sharia law in the west. But, as long as the capitalist spirit of competition lives on, the people who one would expect to most readily adopt Sharia law will reject it in favor of the higher standard living they came here for.
This, of course, makes it extra important for America to protect the open nature of its markets. As long as entrepreneurs are free to enter the market, we have nothing to fear from religious extremism taking root at home.