This just won't go away. Somali taxi drivers, almost exclusively driving for Yellow Cab, the worst taxi service in the country, and a rogue shuttle driver, have locked horns over the use of a so-called "quiet room" at SLC International Airport. This Brueningsen guy is obviously more than a little sensitive to the situation and is probably a poster-boy of how not to integrate an immigrant population, but what he brings up is really a question of separation of church and state. You know, the same separation that the ACLU depends upon to collect their checks.
Brueningsen wasn't the only one who complained over the years, although he was the only one to do so formally, but Gann says the airport was generally able to address people's issues. For example, when some cabbies complained about Muslim drivers washing their feet in the bathroom, the airport opened a janitor's closet so the mop sink could be used for ritual washing. The airport spoke to the taxi company owners, telling them to convey messages of concern. But between degrees of separation, language and cultural barriers, it's hard to know what every Muslim driver understood.
So, is it really appropriate for quasi-public institutions like airports to convert mop closets into Islamic foot-washing stations? We also get the message pounded home that Brueningsen is a xenophobic, aggressive redneck:
The whole situation befuddles Clancy Prescott, 60, a Marine veteran who's driven a cab for nearly 20 years and is called "Grandpa" by a group of young Somali drivers who hang out and share food with him. "Other than this guy, I don't know anyone else who's complained," he says. "Why should he care if they pray or not? It don't bother me." The shuttle driver's antics don't surprise Thomas Howard, a Park City attorney who represented one of Brueningsen's former employers starting in 2002. He recalls the incessant harassment of his client, which required the lawyer to file for a restraining order. "The guy's an absolute troublemaker, in my opinion," Howard says.
Good, now we are finished being all "balanced" and shit. The "quiet room" has been closed and we can all move on, right? Well, there are those types of spaces scattered about airports all across America, but most with completely different set-ups:
This saddens Tarek Nosseir of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, who says he's used "quiet spaces" inside some of the country's largest airports. If he can use them as a passenger, shouldn't drivers serving passengers be entitled to the same? The difference, explains Rutan, is that nondenominational chapels in airports are leased to a third party. If a third party wanted to lease a space for drivers, such a facility would be cleared for takeoff. Meantime, port-o-potties with little sinks are the best Muslim drivers, all drivers, can expect.
Seems reasonable enough to me to have a third-party lease account for this demand to pray in public. I for one don't care if and when people pray to Allah/God/Gaia or Oprah, but I do object to one side or the other prohibiting the others' own displays of piousness. I should point out that, based upon my own limited experience, many Utah Muslims from Somalia are quite traditional, much more so than their more established Pakistani and Middle Eastern counterparts (if I may indulge myself with a gross oversimplification). But as they mature in their new lifes as Americans, I hope we see them integrate. I'm not asking them to abandon their faith, just to realize that along with their new life comes the peculiarly American tradition of derision and satire that the Jews, Evangelicals, Mormons, Atheists, etc. have endured for the last century. It's the time-honored tradition of sarcasm and childish name-calling that makes this country great.
It's really just a matter of time. Just the other day I was leaving the grocery store and as I approached my car, I was assaulted by the bone-crushingly crappy beat of Lil John, they're all the same damned beat, cranking at about 120db. It was the car next to mine and the racket had knocked the front bumper off the car. It was chock full of teenage African immigrants, all decked out in Dirty South Garb, obviously high as fuck, laughing their asses off. Maybe that integration will be complete sooner than I thought, whether their Imams like it or not.