Two weeks ago, Twin Cities airport officials were firming up plans to allow many Muslim taxi drivers—staunchly opposed to transporting passengers carrying alcohol of any sort—to alert potential fares of their beliefs with a different-colored light atop their cabs.
After a barrage of negative feedback, they’ve decided to scrap the idea.
“Since then, we’ve heard from Australia and England. It’s really touched a nerve among a lot of people. The backlash, frankly, has been overwhelming,” said Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. “People are overwhelmingly against any kind of cultural accommodation.”
About 80 percent of the airport’s taxis are driven by Somalis, who are commonly Muslim, Hogan said. The Quran, Islam’s holy book, strictly forbids carrying alcohol. The result: Such drivers refuse to carry passengers and are sent to the back of the cab line—typically a three-hour wait.
The plan, which proposed a $40 light that drivers could buy and a two-tiered pickup system, went so far as to be placed on paper. But nobody signed the papers, and the program never went into effect, Hogan said.
Interviews with about a dozen cabbies at the airport Tuesday night indicated that Muslim drivers intend to continue to stand by their religious beliefs and not transport passengers carrying alcohol.
“It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be really tough, I don’t know what’s going to be next,” said Ali Abdi of St. Paul. “We have the right (to refuse to transport alcohol). We are still human being(s).”
A couple went so far as to say they view the backlash as unfairly targeting Somalis and Muslims.
Non-Muslim drivers said they didn’t have opinions on the matter.