The Blog

(Update) Catching a Cab at the Airport

1:34 PM, Oct 4, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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(The Australian weighs in with this editorial: "It is a situation which both demonstrates the global nature of the debate on values and which presents a textbook case of how not to deal with Islamic fundamentalists in the West. Rather than threatening such cabbies with fines or loss of licence for refusing to carry fares, the Metropolitan Airports Commission has proposed special colour-coded lights to indicate which taxis are driven by non-Muslims and those willing to tote alcohol and those where sharia applies bumper to bumper. This is exactly the wrong solution. It opens moderate Muslim taxi drivers who are willing to carry passengers possessing alcohol open to harassment from their more radical co-religionists. It violates the long-enshrined legal principle that taxis are a public conveyance open to all…."

I suspect the airport commission believed it had no choice: either give in or face chaos on the sidewalk. I also doubt this will end at the airport curbside. Some of these same cabbies may decide to keep the special colored light on while in the queue to pick up fares at area hotels, for example. What about if you call for a cab? In some places, will we reach the point where the dispatcher has to ask if you will be carrying liquor? I hope not. In any event, having the government's imprimatur on such an airport policy raises many other questions that I'm sure will be debated. Stay tuned.)

Posted on October 1, 2006:

I suspect this issue will surface at other airports in the U.S. From the AP:

Muslim Cabdrivers May Have to Signify Alcohol-Free Cars

MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 30 (AP) - Hundreds of Muslim cabdrivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport may soon be required to put different colored lights atop their vehicles after refusing to take customers they know are carrying alcohol.

The proposal, which would allow airport workers to direct travelers to cabs more efficiently, needs approval from the airport's taxicab advisory committee, and airport officials hope to have the lights ready by year's end.

If the proposal is adopted, cabdrivers without the light who refuse a fare will be sent to the back of the line, which often means a three-hour wait.

Some said they would rather wait for another fare than carry a passenger with alcohol. "It is forbidden in Islam to carry alcohol," said Muhamed Mursal, a cabdriver.

Pat Hogan, an airport spokesman, said a handful of drivers began refusing to carry alcohol 10 years ago. Now he estimates that three-quarters of the 900 airport cabdrivers are Somali, most of them Muslim.

Mr. Hogan said drunken passengers have not had trouble getting a cab, just the ones who mention that they are carrying a bottle. He said, "It's slowly grown over the years to the point that it's become a significant customer service issue for us."

Some travelers are taken aback by the idea that they might be refused a ride.

"They're really kind of imparting their religious views on the public," said Katie Patterson of McKinney, Tex. "I can understand if somebody's drunk; that's a whole different issue. But to just bring in a closed container, maybe you should look for other work."