APRIL 17, 2007
After months of stalling, commissioners at one of the nation’s busiest airports have finally voted to crack down on Muslim cab drivers who regularly use Islamic rule to discriminate against passengers carrying liquor or guide dogs.
Although the state agency that licenses them prohibits discrimination and allows fare refusal only for safety reasons, Muslim taxi drivers at Minnesota’s largest airport regularly turn down hundreds of customers simply because they have sealed alcoholic containers or a dog.
The Minnesota Chapter of the Muslim American Society avidly defends the discriminatory practice because Islamic law forbids drinking, selling and transporting alcohol therefore driving a passenger in possession of it is a sin. Islam also considers the saliva of dogs, even federally protected guide dogs, to be unclean.
The Islamic defense will no longer protect the state’s Muslim cab drivers, thanks to the Metropolitan Airport Commission’s unanimous decision this week to punish drivers refusing service. The commission’s 11-0 vote, emphasizing that Islamic law does not rule in the United States, means airport taxi drivers who refuse riders will face 30-day suspensions and repeat offenders will have their license revoked for two years.
The decision makes Minnesota the country’s first state or municipality to crack down on a widespread problem of Muslim cabbies that use religious grounds to discriminate against passengers. Commissioners had no choice but to address the growing problem at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where three quarters of the 900 licensed taxi drivers are Muslim.
The airport annually services around 40 million passengers and thousands were annually stranded without a ride because Muslim cab drivers refused to transport them. Although Muslim leaders are calling it a harsh penalty against fellow Americans practicing their faith, airport officials say the new law simply sends a message that if you want to drive at this airport you must take all customers.
Advocates of Islamic rights have vowed to challenge the law in court, claiming it violates the Muslim cab driver’s religious freedom. One news blog suggests the Muslim drivers not seek fares in venues that may violate their religious principles and that they shouldn’t expect the venue, specially a governmental one required by law not to discriminate, to accommodate their discriminatory preferences.
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