Those Muslim Cabbies

This isn’t a blog post about what’s wrong with Islam.

In fact, most people would be shocked to learn that as a white, middle-class American Pastor I’m actually an Islamic sympathizer.

That’s not to say that I place any stock in the Islamic faith, it’s just to say that I’ve travelled too much of the Islamic world to be swayed by the rhetorical punches that are aimed at “a religion” but land squarely on the noses of human beings.

I have Muslim friends and despite our cultural and religious differences I am generously received by them.

This is a blog post about what’s wrong with the human heart.

This week an American rental car company fired 25 Muslim drivers for not “clocking out” while they observed their daily prayers.  The drivers, Muslims from war torn nations in East Africa, came to Washington looking for a better life.  They found it shuttling cars around the SeaTac airport.

Devout Muslims pray 5 times per day.  It’s common in the Muslim world to watch the activity of an entire town grind to a halt as the call to prayer sounds. The people dutifully face towards Mecca, bow to the earth, and spend 5-7 minutes in prayer.

It’s nearly impossible to find an American who can sit still for more than 5 minutes.

The devotion of an Islamic worshipper is a beautiful and humbling thing to behold.  It’s also completely foreign to any western understanding of work, let alone religion.

As the people of our world move away from a “national focus” and we acknowledge that our frame of reference has become global, these confrontations have become all too familiar.

In a global economy of Middle-Eastern oil barons and Sub-Continental tech support, is there still a suit and tie dress code?

What language will the meeting be held in?

Are bare legs the best choice in this part of town?

Can I wear a hijab to the theme park?

So what about the plight of the airport workers?  How do they exercise their religious freedom while maintaining their employment and their piety?

It’s important to understand that any human heart wants “what it wants”, and it expects others to bow in submission to its quest for achievement.

This is why we run roughshod over one another at the supermarket and on the highways, regardless of race, religion, or creed.

We don’t just want to have our cake and eat it, we actually want to eat our cake and grasp at someone else’s too.

In our grasping, we’ve forgotten that enjoying freedom also means battling for understanding while discouraging entitlement.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution establishes for the freedom of religion, not employment.

Living in America means that no one, not even the government, has the right to force a religion upon you, or to torture, imprison, or kill you for following your own.

It doesn’t mean that your employer can’t fire you because you won’t work on a certain day of the week, even if you consider it sacred.  If they need someone to work that day, they have the right to fire and hire for it.

When we can no longer comply with the terms of our employment, we can’t work there anymore.  That’s not a boss issue, it’s a worker issue.

The Islamic workers were not fired for being Islamic, they were fired for not observing the company policy of “clocking out” when attending to their prayers.

The fact that they have the right to maintain their employment if willing to uphold company policy is the sign of their freedom.

The desire to get paid to practice religion on company time is the sign of a lack of understanding and entitlement… on the drivers parts.

Which begs a pretty significant question,  “In what ways do we try to have our cake, eat it, then grab at someone else’s?”

Because the problem here isn’t Islamic.

And it isn’t African.

And it isn’t economic.

It’s entirely human.

Most of us don’t clock out of work to log onto Facebook.

Or take a personal call from a friend or family member.

We have red-light cameras because green and yellow lights aren’t enough.

That red-light was somebody else’s green.

An all you can drink soda is meant for one person not two.

Our hearts are desperate to achieve their own ends, and we will use whatever excuse we can to justify our attempts to meet our own needs.

So what are WE grasping at that doesn’t belong to us? Could we let it go even if it were in reach, and we felt entitled to it?

It’s a lot easier for me to feel right when the person who is wrong doesn’t look anything like me…

…Even though we act the same.

2 Responses to “Those Muslim Cabbies”

  1. Leslie D. Martin October 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    The difference here is not just a matter of degree. It is not “just” a matter of entitlement; it is a matter defiance. These drivers were warned — repeatedly, and undoubtedly for a period beyond what a non-Muslim would have been allowed — and their refusal was apparently based not on a sense of “entitlement” but with a deliberate defiance.

    There is a significant difference between occasional or careless selfishness and making excuses for one’s behavior, an ongoing sense of entitlement and blaming others for disrespecting our behavior, and deliberate, willful defiance and viewing those who object to our behavior with arrogance and contempt. Selfishness on the part of one does not justify (or even give ground to excuse) entitlement or defiance on the part of another. If it does, then no one can be held accountable for anything. Then where would we be? And if selfishness disqualifies one from enforcing rules, regulations and laws (and enforcing them requires — dare we use that ugly word — “judgement” on the part of the person doing the enforcing) , then no one can enforce any law, regulation or rule — or even write any law, for that matter. Then where would we be?

  2. Jon October 21, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Doesn’t defiance always grow out of a sense of entitlement? Selfishness in and of itself is defiance of others regardless of whether or not it is passive or aggressive.

    It’s incredibly easy to write these people off because of prejudice, but it’s actually more truthful, effective, and fair to let the facts speak for themselves when this group doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    The point I’m illustrating is that it’s easy to to point out what’s wrong with others while letting ourselves off of the hook… whether or not a pattern is established.

    Politainment talk radio intimates that extreme behavior and immorality centers around fanatical religious groups, foreign immigrants, and liberals but that’s only 1 half of the story.

    Selfishness, rebelliousness, and entitlement are on display in every life everyday and the most effective way of dealing with it happens when we work to curb it in the places we have authority, the first place being our heart.

    I’m not saying to ignore the law or the constitution, I am saying not to miss an opportunity to investigate the condition of our hearts when it comes to self-justification and entitlement.

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