German taxi driver faces fine for driving around with Bible text

07-12-2023

Central Europe

CNE.news

Lines of taxis are parked on 'Strasse des 17. Juni' street near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, 19 February 2021. Photo EPA, Filip Singer

Whoever drives behind Jalil Mashali will read the text "Jesus – I am the Truth, the Way and the Life." Now, Mashali's career may depend on these words.

The city of Essen, where Mashali drives his taxi, wants him to remove the words from his rear window. Officials threatened him with a fine of a thousand euros if he did not remove the sticker. According to the city, the text is religious advertising, which is not allowed on German taxis, Radio Essen writes. The authorities warned Mashali that the fine for violating this ban could even amount to up to 10,000 euros.

The ban on religious advertising dates back to 1998, when the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that taxis have an important public function for everyone, PRO writes. Therefore, religious texts were seen as inappropriate.

Love

However, Mashali disagrees. In an interview with Radio Essen, he argued that the text is not a religious slogan but just his opinion. "In Germany, there is freedom of expression, so I don't see why I should remove the saying."

The taxi driver points out that the text means much to him. Born as a Muslim in Iran, he was injured severely in a bus accident there. After about 20 surgeries, his leg had not healed yet, and he was desperate. But at that moment, he met a Christian woman in the hospital who prayed for him. After that, he felt better and became a Christian. The Bible text on his taxi, Mashali points out, is now a way for him to show his love for Christianity.

Tense

However, in the worst case, Radio Essen writes that the text may even lead to his dismissal as a taxi driver. His car, with the Bible verse, is not allowed to be driven in Germany. The Essen Road Traffic Office decides whether an exception can be made on a case-to-case basis. However, a spokeswoman has already told Radio Essen that this is unlikely due to the "tense global political situation."

The taxi driver has hired a lawyer to get his fine waived, and his Bible text tolerated. "In Iran, they might have imprisoned me or killed me for it", Mashali said. "But I live here in Germany."

Chain

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