Muslim Cabbies Refuse
to Bend in Alcohol Dispute
Bloomington: Dozens of Muslim cab drivers showed up for
a hearing at a hotel near the Minneapolis-St Paul International
Airport on Tuesday to protest against proposed penalties
for cabbies who refuse service to passengers carrying alcohol.
“I am Muslim. I’m not going to carry alcohol,”
Abdi Mohamed, a driver for Bloomington Cab, told a Metropolitan
Airports Commission panel that gathered to hear public opinion
on the proposals.
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 the
cabdrivers are Somali, who are predominantly Muslim. Last
year, airport officials said alcohol-bearing passengers
were being refused service an average of 77 times a month,
though that figure dropped drastically after new airplane
travel safety rules prohibited liquids in carry-on luggage.
In September, the commission proposed a compromise that
would have let Muslim cabbies display a different-colored
light on their cab if they did not want to pick up passengers
But that proposal triggered a huge backlash, from both passengers
and other taxi drivers who feared it would make travelers
avoid taxis altogether. Soon the airport commission went
the other direction, proposing the stiff penalties for cabbies
that refuse service to alcohol-toting passengers.
“I don’t have a problem with people practicing
their religion,” said Douglas Bass of St Paul. “I
don’t even have a problem with people who want everyone
to believe what they believe. But I do have a problem when
a majority is being forced to observe other religions and
The cabbies and their supporters left no doubt that they
are not willing to bend on the alcohol issue.
Hassan Mohamud, a Muslim imam and adjunct law professor
at William Mitchell College of Law, said the Muslim cab
drivers are only trying to support their families, both
here and in their strife-torn home country, and are being
placed in an impossible situation.
Abdifatah Abdi, who said he is counseling cabdrivers on
legal issues related to the controversy, warned commissioners
that instituting the penalty would set off a long legal
“This is a religious freedom issue, and it will not
end here,” Abdi said. “It will go to the courts,
even the Supreme Court. The drivers will not relinquish
their rights to be protected under American law.”