If you drink alcohol, some Muslim cab drivers won’t drive you

Posted on January 27, 2007


January 26, 2007
By Keith Oppenheim

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota […] I stepped into the taxi depot that serves the Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport, where drivers sit and wait for their next fare. In this crowded, noisy room, most of the cabbies are Muslims originally from Somalia.

“We’re doing a story about the conflict between the cabbies and the airport. The Muslim drivers have been refusing to take passengers carrying alcohol, such as wine or liquor purchased at a duty free shop,” I explained. A group of men gathered around us.”This is America, we have freedom of religion,” says one cabbie. 

[…] From the back seat, I asked why Adan would object if I were carrying alcohol. “The one who drinks, the one who transports, and the one who makes a business of it, they have the same category,” he said. “So, by my transporting my alcohol in your cab, you are sinning?” I asked. “Sinning to God, yes,” he replied.

Adan is not alone. About three quarters of the 900 cabbies serving the airport are Muslim, and many have been regularly refusing passengers carrying beer, wine or liquor.

In the past five years, 5,400 would-be taxi passengers at the airport were refused service for this very reason, said the Metropolitan Airport Commission, or MAC. Last May, passenger Bob Dildine says he waited for 20 minutes, and five cab drivers would not give him and his daughter a ride. He was carrying wine he bought on vacation. […]

MAC officials said they don’t know of any airport other than the Twin Cities where this has become an issue. MAC officials explain that the area has a growing population of immigrant Somalians, many who’ve sought jobs as taxi drivers. Last year, MAC consulted local Muslim leaders, who issued a fatwa, or religious opinion. “It is expressly stated,” said Kahlid Elmasry of the Muslim American Society. “Transportation of alcohol for Muslims is against the Islamic faith, and therefore forbidden.” [more]

Note from Rafik Beekun: These same cab drivers refuse to drive passengers with dogs, and are now facing the threat of being suspended or eventually having their license revoked. Please click here to read this second article from ABC News. Here is an excerpt from this article which seems to aim for a compromise:

“This type of job helps immigrants move to the next level,” says Hassan Mouhamud, Imam of the AlTaqwa Mosque in St. Paul, and a scholar of Islamic Law. “Blocking that,” he says, “can cost jobs, it can also cost immigrants and their families the American dream.”

Mouhamud says there are schools of Islamic thought that allow for compromise. He says under the Hanafi School of Islamic law, if Muslims live in a country that does not enforce their religious law, they can defer to the written laws of that country. “American society has a rule of respecting religions,” says Mouhamed. ” We hope there is room to accommodate all faiths.”