NYC cab ride as a test of faith

It can’t have come as any great comfort this week when it was learned that a student filmmaker had stabbed a New York City cab driver after learning he was Muslim. But for one subsequent rider, a disaster turned out to be an interfaith opportunity.

The New York Times reports on Kristen Kelch, whose taxi stalled out in the middle of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive meant another taxi stopping to give quarter:

The driver of Ms. Kelch’s stalled taxi seemed to have no big ideas about how to get them out of peril — later, he tried to charge her party $13 for the aborted trip. But there was another cabby, an off-duty driver who stopped, at his own peril, in the middle lane, and offered the passengers a ride….

Her hero cabdriver, a native of Morocco and apparently an astute observer, told Ms. Kelch he thought New Yorkers just liked to complain. “But I don’t think they should put the community center downtown,” she quoted him as saying of the proposed project, known as Park51, which would include a mosque. The driver was not so much worried about ground zero being hallowed ground, but about logistics. So many Muslim cabdrivers; so few places to park nearby.

SOME have interpreted the rage-filled stabbing of the Muslim cabdriver on Tuesday as the pinnacle of weeks of hate-mongering from some quarters, as if Park51 had provided a long-awaited excuse to vent more general racist rage. But in the other taxi, the one with Ms. Kelch and her daughter and friend, discussion of the community center inspired an open conversation about religion, a subject usually off limits between passenger and driver. Maybe in more cabs than one, Park51 has proved an excuse not for vitriol, but for overdue questions about Muslim perspectives on New York.

So there you have it. One little cab ride may not change the tide of interreligious politicking or the convictions of many, but it looks to have opened the door for the few to talk. And that beats keeping silent vigil any day.

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