This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 19, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: First, Muslim cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport caused controversy when they refused to drive passengers who were carrying bottles of alcohol. Now some Muslim cashiers at a Minneapolis Target store object to ringing up pork products, because even running a package of bacon under the grocery price scanner is against their religious belief.
Now, the Target store says those who do not want to ring up pork will be moved to other positions.
Omar Jamal is the executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center. He joins me from San Diego.
So, Omar, what is going on in Minneapolis? All of a sudden, a lot of Somalis are objecting to things they have to do at their jobs. Did they misunderstand what they were going to be asked to do when they took these jobs?
OMAR JAMAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOMALI JUSTICE ADVOCACY CENTER: Well, John, thanks for having me on.
It's not that they don't understand. I think the credit goes to CAIR. A Council of American Islamic — group is in D.C., turning Minnesota one of the most extremist states in this country, because this is not happening out of nowhere.
They were cooking up these issues by Somalis using — providing service to the passengers carrying alcohol, by being — refusing service to dog guides, and sometimes even homosexual people, and now this.
I think it's been — it's something bigger than what we see. This has been a political issue that CAIR and MAS, the Muslim American Society, have been intentionally doing this, in order to raise funds. And it's over a war on ideology. I think Minnesota, someone can argue that we have lost the war on ideology. People are turning into very radical views.
And this is not the last thing we will see. An issue like this will come up in different areas that you will never expect. And I think thanks to CAIR for doing this.
GIBSON: Well, Omar, what — what about you? What about the Somali Justice Advocacy Center? Do you think these particular Somalis have the right to be doing this?
And, when they move to a place like Minnesota, are they assimilating, or are they alienating?
JAMAL: Under the circumstances, I think they are alienating.
And, under the Civil Rights Act, I think companies and work areas, someone could be accommodated reasonable for a person's religious beliefs or practice without undue harm.
But, under this situation, I think this is not something that's happening — I think this is out of the ordinary, where people are intentionally doing this. I think it is very absurd. And I don't know if you know CAIR just opened a branch in Saint Paul, after all these tensions and conflicts over religious issues in Minnesota.
GIBSON: You know, the — Minnesota also has the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison. Are — do we have a situation where Muslims, Somali Muslims, in Minnesota are feeling empowered because they — there is a Muslim congressman now?
JAMAL: Well, I think Somali individuals who are eligible to vote — I think Minnesota is the home of the largest Somali immigrants in North America.
And I believe that some of them, of course, do feel that they are a little bit empowered. But Keith Ellison comes out of liberal Democratic Farmers Party, DFLers, out of that philosophy. And Somali being part of that, I think they feel empowered.
But, however, in this case of a constant religious tension cooked up by CAIR and MAS is misleading the Somali masses and empowering them in a way different than the traditional Americans feel powered, which is they stand for something completely against what this country stands for.
GIBSON: Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in San Diego — Omar, thanks very much.
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