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Airport taxi controversy: Why here? (MN)
Garowe Online ^ | 3/12/07 | EMILY GURNON/Pioneer Press

Posted on 03/13/2007 3:23:12 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo

Muslim taxi drivers serve airports throughout the country. Yet a dispute about cabbies refusing on religious grounds to take passengers with alcohol has flared only in the Twin Cities.

Some Muslim leaders said the alcohol controversy is part of a larger ideological clash within Minnesota's growing Somali community, which they said helps explain why the issue erupted here without spreading to other cities.

"There is a group of orthodox Islamic groups who are using the Somali community," said Martin Mohamed, head of the Immigrant Credit Education and Financial Counseling Agency in Minneapolis. "We have seen this all the time. They want to make their own political agenda here, using the Somali cabdrivers."

Other community leaders said the alcohol matter is a legitimate issue of faith, one in which committed Muslims are standing up for their religion.

"It's not for radical purposes," said Abdirahman Omar Ahmed, the imam, or prayer leader, at the Abuubakar Islamic Center in South Minneapolis. "They are talking about their faith, nothing else."

Either way, some community activists said they worry the flap will spark a backlash that hurts Somali immigrants and other Muslims.

"Most community organizations like mine and others work toward building relationships and networking," said Saeed Fahia, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community of Minnesota. "I'm concerned that when I try to place a woman in a factory or a person on an assembly line, I worry that the employer will think: 'Oh, don't hire this person; they might want to change the rules of the work site.' You don't want that kind of baggage."

Fahia said he was speaking only for himself, not his organization.

Although the cabdriver dispute has only recently heated up, the issue didn't surface overnight. It's been brewing as far back as 2000, and even as long as there have been Muslim drivers here, some cabbies say.

The drivers insist that Islamic law forbids them from taking passengers who have sealed bottles of wine or other liquor in their luggage, because that would mean they are participating in a sin. Airport officials said some Muslim drivers also have expressed concern about picking up passengers with dogs, citing religious concerns about the animals' purity.

After trying to work with Muslim leaders — at one point ditching a compromise plan involving colored lights for "non-alcohol" taxis — the Metropolitan Airports Commission now appears poised to clamp down on drivers who refuse customers. Airport staff have recommended increasing the penalties, including suspending drivers' airport taxi licenses for repeat violations. The commission is expected to vote next month.

Several Somali leaders said they have been asked by community members to give their opinion on the issue. Ahmed, whose mosque is said to have the largest Somali membership in the Twin Cities, said taxi drivers asked him about a decade ago for a fatwa, or Islamic legal opinion, about whether they should allow alcohol in their cabs.

His answer to the cabbies: Don't do it.

That fatwa was never written down. But last year, when the cabbies were negotiating with the airports commission for some accommodation of their faith, the drivers asked the Muslim American Society of Minnesota for a written fatwa. That ruling, issued in June, seconded Ahmed's stance.

But some Somalis suspect there's more to the taxi dispute than religion.

"The Twin Cities has become — more than any other city — the center of fanaticism and extremism as far as Somalis are concerned," said Omar Jamal of the Somali Peace and Justice Center in St. Paul.

Carrying alcohol in cabs "is not an issue at all for most of the Somali community, but (leaders) use that as a political platform."

Jamal said he believes the goal is to raise money and gain influence on the political situation in Somalia.

Hassan Mohamud was one of four members of the fatwa committee of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, which issued the written taxi ruling. The difference here, Mohamud said, is that local cabbies are educated people who found out that in America, they have rights.

Nobody is exploiting them, he said.

"A Muslim person asking to practice their religion cannot be called extremist or terrorist," Mohamud said.

Ali Guled, a taxi driver who has worked at the airport for seven years, said Muslim drivers in other cities do, in fact, refuse to carry alcohol. The reason it hasn't become an issue, he said, is that management at other airports doesn't make a big deal of it.

"In Minneapolis, they've exaggerated it," Guled said. "The MAC (Metropolitan Airports Commission) is making the conflict between customers and drivers."

But Muslim leaders elsewhere said they had not heard of any refusals of service in their cities.

"We have not found another, similar situation anywhere in the U.S.," said Ali Khan, national director of the Chicago-based American Muslim Council, who describes his group as "vigilant" about tracking issues related to Muslim-Americans.

Khan said individual Muslims may do what they think is best to abide by their faith, and certainly becoming intoxicated is prohibited.

But when cabbies refuse to take a customer bearing wine or other liquor, "I think you're being somewhat judgmental — and that's another thing that's prohibited in the Quran," Khan said.

"It's not a common issue around the world — I don't know exactly why it cropped up in Minnesota," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights and advocacy group.

In that city, his organization helped Muslim taxi drivers lobby for a prayer room at Reagan National Airport, where they make up 70 percent to 80 percent of the cabbies, Hooper said. But liquor has not been an issue.

"The bottom line is, no Muslim is going to be happy about carrying somebody who's transporting alcohol," Hooper said. "Then the question is, is it part of your contract in carrying the public?"

Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement in New York, said refusing to take a passenger with alcohol "is something that is not really mainstream interpretation" of Islamic law.

"If that were the case, I think that most of the cabbies in New York City would not be driving cabs. They would be selling fruit or watches," she said.

Officials at several other airports — including in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — said the issue has never been a problem.

"That has not occurred once that we've heard of," said Michael Conway, director of public affairs for the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. "If we were to have that problem, we would go to the company and say, 'Cab 435 refused a fare, and that's a violation of the contract.' "

Detroit is unusual in that the airport contracts with a taxi association. In the case of Minneapolis-St. Paul and most other airports, most cabdrivers are independent contractors.

Whether to carry alcohol comes down to a personal decision, said Waleed Meneese, an Egyptian Muslim and imam at the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Minneapolis.

"Maybe they're following some other scholars," he said. "Most imams here in Minnesota tell them it's OK."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Minnesota; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: airport; islam; muslims; taxis
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But some Somalis suspect there's more to the taxi dispute than religion.

"The Twin Cities has become — more than any other city — the center of fanaticism and extremism as far as Somalis are concerned," said Omar Jamal of the Somali Peace and Justice Center in St. Paul.

Carrying alcohol in cabs "is not an issue at all for most of the Somali community, but (leaders) use that as a political platform."

Jamal said he believes the goal is to raise money and gain influence on the political situation in Somalia.

Somebody gets it....

1 posted on 03/13/2007 3:23:20 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

I'm guessing they'd have a problem with my pet potbelly pig, my triple-decker ham sandwich, my liquor flask and the strippers I travel with, then?


2 posted on 03/13/2007 3:32:08 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (Newt Gingrich/John Bolton 2008)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Yer screwed!


3 posted on 03/13/2007 3:33:10 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo (Carry Daily. Apply Sparingly.)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

Someone wrote to John Gibson this afternoon, wondering why the Muslim taxi drivers won't carry passengers with alcohol (or who have used alcohol), yet they board airplanes that serve alcohol. What a bunch of hypocrites.


4 posted on 03/13/2007 3:34:08 PM PDT by MizSterious (Anonymous sources often means "the voices in my head told me.")
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
I'm guessing they'd have a problem with my pet potbelly pig, my triple-decker ham sandwich, my liquor flask and the strippers I travel with, then?

What happens in Vegas - stays in Vegas.

5 posted on 03/13/2007 3:35:31 PM PDT by glorgau
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo
If it's in their contract, they should've thought of that before becoming a cab driver.

However, I'd also like to point out that anyone that has a problem with this and also supports Catholic pharmacists refusing to sell birth control is a hypocrite.
6 posted on 03/13/2007 3:37:02 PM PDT by MinnesotaLibertarian
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To: MizSterious

What I've learned about the issue here in the Twin Cities is that the majority of the airport cabbies are new to the country. They are fresh from their home country and still very tightly knit to their religion.

They work at the airport because they aren't yet familiar with all of the streets and addresses around town. It's easy to drive from the airport to an address provided with directions by the passenger. And then back to the airport.

The "pros" know the cities and how much money they can make if they just shut-up and drive. That's why the problem only exists at the airport.


7 posted on 03/13/2007 3:40:04 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo (Carry Daily. Apply Sparingly.)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

Blue Laws and a Burqua in your future????


8 posted on 03/13/2007 3:41:47 PM PDT by Don Corleone (Leave the gun..take the cannoli)
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To: Don Corleone

Heh...

We still have a couple of the old "Blue Laws" on the books here.

A burka....

Hardly.


9 posted on 03/13/2007 3:46:19 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo (Carry Daily. Apply Sparingly.)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

Maybe they could just clean latrines, then. I always thought it was -- 'If this job is not a good match for you, get another job.'


10 posted on 03/13/2007 3:47:17 PM PDT by bboop (Stealth Tutor)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

Don't be too sure about no burqa--what these cab drivers are trying to do, plain and simple, is replace US law with Sharia law. Wake up, MN!


11 posted on 03/13/2007 3:49:26 PM PDT by MizSterious (Anonymous sources often means "the voices in my head told me.")
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To: MizSterious

I'll go down blazin'.


12 posted on 03/13/2007 3:51:16 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo (Carry Daily. Apply Sparingly.)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

There was another thread about a Muslim checkout clerk at Target who refused to touch bacon. They had to get somebody else to pass it over the scanner.


13 posted on 03/13/2007 3:52:04 PM PDT by SauronOfMordor (Never try to teach a pig to sing -- it wastes your time and it annoys the pig)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

With all that cash outlay, one would hope!


14 posted on 03/13/2007 3:53:41 PM PDT by steveo (Is there anything else I can help you with today?)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo
If a diaperhead doesn't want my booze or dog in his taxi, that's fine with me. I'd just as soon not help finance the terrorists in our war with them. I think the reason they're using MSP to create this issue is because the diaperheads know that liberal Minnesotans won't tell them to pound sand and refuse to ride in their cabs like people in other cites would.
15 posted on 03/13/2007 3:55:39 PM PDT by AlaskaErik (Everyone should have a subject they are ignorant about. I choose professional corporate sports.)
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To: SauronOfMordor

There were several threads. It's truly becoming a problem around here.

I could tell some stories.......


16 posted on 03/13/2007 3:58:51 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo (Carry Daily. Apply Sparingly.)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

So if I need a taxi at the Twin Cities airport can I demand a Christian driver?


17 posted on 03/13/2007 4:01:49 PM PDT by VeniVidiVici (¬°El proletariado del mundo, une! - Xuygo Chavez)
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To: AlaskaErik

Actually, the metro airport commission (MAC) has told them to pound sand, or lose their hack license. They also stood up to the muzzies when they wanted their own, PRIVATE, prayer room in the airport. They were told to use the airport chapel, just like everyone else.


18 posted on 03/13/2007 4:02:23 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo (Carry Daily. Apply Sparingly.)
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To: VeniVidiVici

"So if I need a taxi at the Twin Cities airport can I demand a Christian driver?"

I'd certainly give it a whirl. I may just do that exact thing next time I fly. I'll report back.


19 posted on 03/13/2007 4:04:24 PM PDT by ButThreeLeftsDo (Carry Daily. Apply Sparingly.)
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To: ButThreeLeftsDo

All it takes is for enough citizens to shrug their shoulders and let them get away with it.


20 posted on 03/13/2007 4:04:33 PM PDT by MizSterious (Anonymous sources often means "the voices in my head told me.")
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