Roger L. Simon

Taxi Driving in Seattle

Yesterday afternoon, after wrapping up our vacation with a couple of pleasant hours in the Elliot Bay Book Company, Sheryl, Madeleine and I started back to our hotel to pick up our bags and head home to LA. We were with our friend and my Pajamas colleague Gerard. He proposed we take a cab; he would drop us by the hotel before continuing to his home.

We found one quickly. It was driven by an African guy. We had to instruct him about the location of our hotel; it was new. In the course of this I asked him where he was from. Kenya, he said. But then quickly added he was Somali. Many Somalians live in Kenya.

Ah, Somalia. Immediately the three adults in the car perked up. We acknowledged we knew there was big trouble in that country, the attack from Ethiopia on the ICU, etc. To our surprise, our driver immediately launched into a vitriolic attack on Al Qaeda. They were evil violent men, hijacking Islam across the globe. He had details of their infiltration of Somalia from a phone call he had made the previous night, how they were using Saudi money, etc. Thousands of people were being murdered by these Wahhabis for no reason. He was obviously following the situation closely. Al Qaeda was a danger to all mankind, he said.

It was a refreshing to hear this view from a Moslem taxi driver in Seattle. He was obviously pleased that we recognized the travails of his people too. So he continued with his explication of what was behind this terrible situation – how the Moslem religion could have been taken over by these violent forces. Someone was behind the rise of this Saudi Wahhabism . The answer, he said, was Israel. It was all an Israeli plot. They were behind the Wahhabis.

Suddenly our hearts sank. How could a man who seemed so reasonable, so knowledgeable, say something so obviously crazy?

Just then we were at our hotel. Sheryl and I left the cab, stunned. I phoned Gerard from the airport. What had the man said on the way to his place? Gerard – wisely – had let him continue. There was no point in fighting with a man like that. Better to learn how his mind worked. Gerard simply inquired why the Israelis would want to back Al Qaeda when Al Qaeda was sworn to destroy Israel. The man replied by talking about his childhood, his Islamic education. He had learned about the Jews from the Koran. That was the truth, of course.

Taxi driving in Seattle. So it goes.