27 January 2011

Taxi Drivers Expound on the Explosion

There are legal and illegal taxi services in Moscow.  For some reason, immigrants from Azerbaijan seemed to have cornered the illegal taxi market in this city.  As it happens, I am a frequent customer.

Islam is the predominant religion of Azerbaijan.  However, these taxi drivers, being a motley crew, are of various faiths as evidenced by the religious artifacts displayed in their vehicles.  Mostly, these religious artifacts are Islamic or Christian, but a Star of David can be found now and then.  

I have been intrigued by the differing reactions of these taxi drivers to the 24 January bombing of Moscow's Domodedovo airport.  The reactions range from blasé to idle conspiracy theories to sheer outrage.  Interestingly, the most outraged taxi drivers are those with Muslim names and Islamic artifacts in their vehicles.  Drivers of other faiths tend to have a much more muted reaction to the event.

The stated source of the outrage is the immorality of the murderous action.  In their outrage, the drivers wax philosophically and religiously about the nature of these events and their consequences.  Phrases like "God is watching" and "there is a place in hell for people like these bombers" are common.

My hypothesis is that there is something different at play than just the sheer evilness of the action:  Because in the current day these suicidal terrorist actions are often carried out by (a small minority of) Muslims, they reflect poorly on all Muslims.  And, if you are a Muslim who is in the minority - as most Azerbaijani taxi drivers in Moscow are - the opinion of the majority starts to weigh heavily.  The outrage, thus, is anger directed at those small group of delirious few that see it as their God-blessed duty to kill others for some arbitrary cause because, those crazy few ruin the social standing and livelihood of many others who want nothing to do with terrorist actions and want to live their lives normally as part of a larger society.

Let us hope that this outrage, expressed by small pockets of people in the diaspora, becomes a cultural force in Muslim homelands and a driver for eradicating the sheer lunacy that calls for terrorist attacks around the world.

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