Multicultural Windfall: Judge Awards $240,000 to Muslim Truckers Who Refused to Deliver Beer

In a tight spot and need some cash? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is here to help. All you need to do is convert to Islam then refuse to do your job on religious grounds, and significant financial rewards await you.

Last Thursday, the EEOC won $240,000 for two Muslim truck drivers who had been fired for refusing to transport beer. The lucky winners, Somali Muslims Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale, had been fired by trucking company Star Transport. Their refusal was based on Islamic law.

One hadith describes Aisha, Muhammad’s beloved child bride, recounting:

When the last verses of Surat-al-Baqara [chapter two of the Qur’an] were revealed, the Prophet went out (of his house to the Mosque) and said, "The trade of alcohol has become illegal.” (Bukhari 3.34.429)

Due to this passage, Muslims not only cannot drink alcohol, but they cannot traffic in it, including driving it from one place to another. However, this rule is not hard and fast: Muslims who sell alcohol in convenience stores or do the job Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale were told to do can justify it by pointing to the Islamic principles of taysir, meaning "facilitation" or making things easier, and darura, the permission to do something that is normally illegal out of some necessity.

Not all Islamic scholars accept the idea that those principles allow Muslims to contravene Islamic law. They point to a hadith that depicts Muhammad saying the following:

It is obligatory upon a Muslim that he should listen (to the ruler appointed over him) and obey him whether he likes it or not, except that he is ordered to do a sinful thing. If he is ordered to do a sinful act, a Muslim should neither listen to him nor should he obey his orders. (Muslim 4553)

That’s what leads to lawsuits such as this one. Said the EEOC’s General Counsel David Lopez:

EEOC is proud to support the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices. This is fundamental to the American principles of religious freedom and tolerance.

That sounds lofty, American. But before you break out the fife and drum, consider that this case enforces the opposite of "equal treatment in the workplace." It establishes Muslim truckers as having a special right to choose what they transport and what they do not, a privilege that other truckers do not have.