Muslim Cabbies Tell Airport They Won’t Bend In Alcohol Dispute

Patrick Condon, AP, Feb. 27, 2007

For Abdi Mohamed, it’s not a question of whether he’ll carry passengers with alcohol in his cab. The question is whether he’ll get punished for refusing to do so.

“I am Muslim. I’m not going to carry alcohol,” Mohamed, a driver for Bloomington Cab, told a Metropolitan Airports Commission panel that gathered public opinion Tuesday regarding proposed penalties for cabbies who refuse service to passengers carrying alcohol.

Dozens of cab drivers showed up for the hearing at a hotel near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Commissioners are charged with setting a new policy by May, when airport licenses for cab drivers are set to expire. Under the proposal, drivers who refuse service for any reason would have their license suspended for 30 days. A second refusal would mean a two-year revocation of the license.

According to airport officials, about 80 percent of their cabdrivers are Somali, who are commonly Muslim. Islam religious law strictly forbids the carrying of alcohol.

Last year, airport officials said alcohol-bearing passengers were being refused service an average of 77 times a month, though that dropped drastically after new travel safety rules prohibited liquids in carry-on luggage.

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Much of the hearing was dedicated to concerns over whether Muslim cabbies would also refuse service to blind passengers with trained guide dogs, because of Muslim prohibitions against interacting with dogs.

Several blind people voiced their concerns, but cabbies at the hearing said such worries aren’t warranted. Refusing service to blind passengers is against federal law.

“I am a Muslim and I have taken many guide dogs,” Abdi Mohamed said.

But the cabbies and their supporters left no doubt that they aren’t flexible on the alcohol issue.

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