March 15, 2007

A "Straight Into The Fire" Post

Our local papers in Minneapolis/St. Paul have been filled, recently, with stories of the Muslim cabdrivers who drive to and from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport refusing to carry passengers with alcohol or animals because of their Muslim beliefs. I don't have time right now, on my lunch break, to look up numbers; but, from observation only, I would say that most of the airport cabbies are Muslim men. I can't remember the last time I saw a woman driving a cab in this town. There have, also, been complaints from the Muslim airport cabbies that they have been discriminated against by one of the stations they use for their breaks.

In the last few days, stories surfaced in the paper about Muslim cashiers at Target refusing to scan or handle pork products that are brought to them in the checkout lines. They are either stepping away or asking the customer to do it.

In today's Pioneer Press Local section (I believe it's in the print paper only because I can't find it online), the paper took the unprecedented step of asking for THOUGHTFUL reader responses, after the Muslim cashier story, that they can actually print. It seems they are being inundated with anonymous and angry comments, long on profanity, prejudice and hatred, but short on reason and civility.

The excellent local blog Our Word and Welcome to It has had several posts in the last couple of months on the dearth of civility. I think we can see here a prime example of our society's increasing inability to discuss or comment in a calm and thoughtful manner.

The whole series of stories makes me ponder what exactly is the difference, or is there one, between a Muslim refusing to do something that violates their beliefs and say, a Catholic pharmacist who refuses to fill a prescription for contraception? Or, an OB/GYN who refuses to perform an abortion under any circumstances because it violates their religious beliefs?

Haven't some of us Catholics cheered when we read that Catholic pharmarcists were refusing to fill contraception requests? Aren't we happy when doctors refuse to perform abortions? What makes us any different, really, from the Muslims that I've read in the paper recently?

Is it because we are Christians and they aren't? To me, that shouldn't be the issue, but I suspect that to some it is in a big way.
Is it because they are mostly immigrants? I, personally, perceive anyone who isn't 100% Native American as an immigrant, so to me this isn't an issue, but I suspect that to some it is.

I believe that the real story behind all this is the revelation of how much simmering hatred is in our midst.

Aren't all of the people that I outlined, religious beliefs aside, violating the law of the land? Abortion, despite the fact that it violates Catholic teachings and even many non-Catholics don't support it, is allowed in the United States. You may hate it and think it is a great evil, as I do, but it is legal. People who present a scrip at a pharmacy should expect to have it filled unless they can't pay for it or the pharmacy is out of stock of that particular medicine.

In the course of my job I have been asked to research statistics on abortion. I am also asked to research the "best" methods of contraception and how many attempts at IVF are usually necessary before it "takes". If I refuse to do any of this, I will be shown the door. My results may have an impact on whether or not an insurer will cover the item or the procedure. Is just looking up vile statistics worth losing a job over? Should it be? If we refuse to do most everything in society because we want to take a religious stance, what's left for us to do? Join a cloistered religious order?

We may not like our particular society but don't we all have to live in it? To live usually means making compromises. It's an old cliche by now: "Can't we all just get along?"

Understand, that I am by no means saying that I advocate abortion, contraception or in-vitro fertilization. I'm asking: at what point should law and faith converge or diverge?

It's not a simple question. Don't look to me for a black and white answer on this one. I welcome any REASONED comments you may want to make in my combox.

Before someone brings this up, I will: "The Pope & The Witch", as vile and offensive as it is to me personally and to my Faith, I don't believe it was illegal for the U of MN to stage it.


Blogger Our Word said...

Thanks for the link, Cathy! You raise some excellent points with this, and these are questions we are going to have to grapple with very soon, lest they tear us apart.

In a shameless self-plug, I will mention that we have another post on this topic coming up shortly, which will probably also appear on our sister blog, Stella Borealis.


March 15, 2007 2:08 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

I'm looking forward to reading it, Mitchell.

March 15, 2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger elena maria vidal said...

Very good points. I think you have to look at it in terms of what is the greater evil. For a Catholic to participate in an abortion, or distribute drugs that promote abortion, is a far graver evil than a Muslim having to handle pork for a few moments at the grocery store. The handling of pork thing is similar to the exaggerations of the Pharisees in the days of Our Lord, and can't be compared to taking a life. The same goes for transporting a passenger who is trying to bring a bottle of wine home for dinner.

March 15, 2007 2:59 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

elena: Good points.

March 15, 2007 6:04 PM  
Blogger Entropy said...

bearing blog had a post last month that hits on this same topic. She said something that I thought was really poignant even if hard to practice.."None of us is tasked with preventing evil. We are, rather, tasked with not doing evil." Easy enough to say...

Of course there are huge differences between Muslims and Catholics on this point as elena points out.

March 15, 2007 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a couple Catholic blogs out there that consistently preach hatred for Muslims, and while I don't condone what the extremists do, I don't think those blogs are giving a truly Christian, or Catholic, viewpoint. Cathy - this post was excellent, fair and balanced and so were the comments. After all, we are ALL created in His image.

March 15, 2007 9:49 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderful post, Cathy. This is exactly what blogging should be all about: making your points and then eliciting reasonable and constructive comments from your readers.

I had not previously made the "Catholic" connection on the alcohol, dog and pork issues that a and extremely small number of Muslim cab drivers and checkout clerks are raising. I have to admit that I have thought unkindly of some of them making their claims.

And frankly, and sadly, it is only a small number of Catholics who are making a religious freedom point with respect to abortion, contraception, IVF, cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

Whatever our current political policies and practices, the founders of our country and their documents are without a doubt responsible for much of the freedom that exists in the world today.

There is no such thing as unlimited freedom; that becomes anarchy. But when we as a society decided to restrict the freedoms of others, we should think long and hard about it.

And those that make claims for freedom should in some aspects of their lives, should be prepared to defend other aspects of their lives where freedom for all is not a practice.

Why are there no female Somali cab drivers? Why are there no female Somali clerks in the the corner stores? Do those stores sell bacon?

March 16, 2007 9:15 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray: I have to admit, my initial reaction to the Muslim stories was anger. But, I try really hard to fight my natural impulse to strike back right away. I tried to put myself in the Muslims shoes through the lens of my belief system.

I have no idea how serious handling pork, transporting alcohol or service animals may be to a Muslim because I am not a Muslim.

I know I take my Faith seriously and I tried to make a connection through my Faith.

I've never bought into the notion that all Muslims are to be hated and feared. As Angela rightly pointed out we see a lot of that viewpoint on blogs. It tires me and it saddens me.

March 16, 2007 9:33 AM  
Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

I echo what a previous commenter says regarding the lack of gravity in handling pork vs. providing a prescription for contraception or committing abortion. The former involve life issues. Your example of expecting to have a prescription filled for contraception at a pharmacy disturbed me as the issue behind this usurps the pharmacists right to practice within his conscience. Freedom of religion means not just freedom to go to Church and the practice of religion at home in private - but this extends into your place of work as well. I know it gets sticky - what if some religion tells a person they must do and not do things that are specifically at odds with a job? For instance, should a practicing muslim BE a cab driver giving their limitations? Should a practicing Catholic BE a doctor or a pharmacist? We are living in difficult times to be sure - but each should be able to practice within thier own conscience. To do otherwise is to live in a dictatorship.

March 19, 2007 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read the article. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

Best wishes
Jeph Normic

February 10, 2010 6:45 AM  

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