A recently-issued policy directive from the City of Cleveland, USA, prohibits Muslim cab drivers from praying at Hopkins International Airport while waiting for fares in the taxi queue.
Other policy directives ban the drivers from using airport restrooms to make ritual ablutions (wudu) and from praying in the airport chapel while on the job.
The latest (March 13, 2009) directive states in part: “Cab drivers observed ‘praying’ in the queue by the cab starter may be sent out for the day. Cab drivers observed moving another’s cab to enable ‘praying’ will be considered in violation of the ASV (Airport Security Violation) Policy and subject to the ASV reinstatement procedure and possible permanent banning from picking up fares at CLE.”
The drivers claim that if they must exit the queue in order to pray they will suffer significant loss of access to fares, forcing them to choose between their faith and their livelihood.
Somali and other immigrant taxi owners and drivers have faced an uphill battle to maintain operations at the airport. The drivers and owners say they are being unfairly ticketed by police officers who they allege impose tickets and fines selectively.
In 2007, the city allegedly attempted to sideline the Somali taxi companies by granting monopolies to several existing firms in a deal that effectively shut out the immigrant-owned cab companies because they did not meet the newly-minted requirements stipulating that all cab companies at Hopkins airport must have been operating in the city for more than seven years and must have $1 million in revenue.
The banned Somali and immigrant-owned companies filed suit, and the matter is currently pending in federal court.
The new restrictions on prayer are unacceptable to the drivers, who wish to meet with the mayor and his staff to find a reasonable accommodation that meets airport safety standards while allowing for freedom of religious expression granted by the Constitution.
“There should be a way to come up with a policy that takes into account the needs of the traveling public, the security requirements of the airport and the religious rights of the taxi drivers,” said CAIR-Ohio Staff Attorney Romin Iqbal. “We ask for a meeting with Mayor Jackson to discuss this issue and to help reach a mutually-agreeable solution.”
ACTION REQUESTED: (as always, be POLITE.)
CAIR is asking the Muslim community to contact the Mayor’s Action Center at 216-664-2900 or the office of the mayor’s Chief of Staff Ken Silliman at 216-664-3990 or to e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org