NORDERSTEDT, Germany – A German Muslim has introduced the country’s first Muslim taxi service through which Germans can arrange shared car rides of the same sex, The Local.de website reported on Friday, January 27.
“Many Muslim brothers and sisters complained that they can’t use conventional offers because the gender segregation stipulated by Islam is not implemented,” Selim Reid, a 24-year-old from Norderstedt, city of about 70,000 near Hamburg, told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.
The idea of the website, Muslimtaxi.de, was first introduced by Reid after a personal experience of his parents.
He said he was inspired to create the site because of Muslims’ bad ride-sharing experiences.
In 1996, his parents, who are originally from Iraq, caught a ride with a Muslim-hating driver who spent the whole time criticizing them.
“The driver and the people with him swore the whole way about foreigners in general and in particular about my mother’s head scarf,” Reid told the newspaper.
“He thought that my parents do not understand German,” he added.
The new site, launched late 2011, is based on the same principle as other popular websites like mitfahrgelegenheit.de , which lets cost-conscious Germans arrange shared car rides.
Those interested in offering rides specify their gender, asking price and how many passengers they can accommodate.
Potential passengers contact the driver directly.
Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.
According to a 2010 nationwide poll by the research institute Infratest-dimap, more than one third of the respondents would prefer “a Germany without Islam.”
In operation since late last year, the website has sparked criticism as a trial to create a parallel society for German Muslims.
Reid denied such accusations, saying that the service offers an opportunity for non-Muslim riders interested in knowing more about Islam.
“Those really looking for dialogue will find it by using Muslim Taxi,” Reid said, The Local reported.
He added that the service was welcomed by thousands of grateful riders who said it was filling a niche.
“The separation of the sexes is part of our faith, and Islam is part of Germany’s.”
Over the past few years, Germany has been gripped by a fierce debate on immigration and integration.
The controversy was spurred in 2009 by central banker Thilo Sarrazin, who accused Muslim immigrants of undermining the society which is becoming less intelligent because of them.
Chancellor Merkel weighed in, saying that multiculturalism has failed in Germany.
But the remarks have drawn angry reactions, with German president Christian Wulff stressing that Islam is part and parcel of German society.
German politicians have also called for recognizing Islam as an official religion in the Christian-majority country.