When Good Intentions Lead to Bad Policies

An important opinion column in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Katherine Kersten, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, titled "Shariah in Minnesota?", exposes the weak underbelly of our open, democratic society. 

Our policymakers need to think very hard about underestimating the political intent behind the tactics of fundamentalist activists who wish to use the tools of democracy and tolerance to subvert religious pluralism in this country.  Fundamentalists wish to impose their view of how things must be done on everyone else, and they are perfectly happy to use democracy to destroy democracy.

One of the things that makes America a great country is our openness to diversity and our tolerance of "the other".  A melting pot society only works, however, when everyone "melts" a bit to become woven into the rich tapestry that is America.

Minnesota has turned into an interesting test case due to a number of incidents that a reasonable person might consider part of a broader group’s attempts to faciliate a larger political agenda :

* Several years ago, Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport started refusing to transport passengers carrying alcohol in their bags, demanding the right to discriminate among passengers;

* In November 2006 the now-celebrated case of the six "flying imams" occurred, where disruptive behavior by six imams before and immediately after boarding a flight raised suspicions among passengers and airline personnel, leading to the detention of the imams and more recently, to the following:

"Last week, the six imams filed suit in the U.S. district court in Minneapolis against US Airways and the Metropolitan Airports Commission, claiming discrimination and defamation.  Now some Muslim cashiers at Twin Cities Target stores have begun refusing to scan pork products, like bacon and pepperoni pizza, and insisting that other cashiers or the customers themselves do it."

Ms. Kersten observes:

"The events here suggest a larger strategy: By piggy-backing on our civil rights laws, Islamist activists aim to equate airport security with racial bigotry and aim to move slowly toward a two-tier legal system.  Intimidation is a crucial tool.  The "flying imams" lawsuit ups the ante by indicating that passengers who alerted airport authorities will be included as defendants."

Allowing such attempts to succeed today will undermine our open society and stand the notion of civil rights in this country on its head.  In my view, reversing bad legislation that may have "good intent" will exact an even greater cost on our socio-political institutions farther down the road.

Are we willing to allow mis-guided notions of tolerance and diversity to rule over common sense?  I hope not.   

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