MINNEAPOLIS – Cabdriver Muhamed Mursal doesn’t wear his Muslim beliefs on his sleeve, but he may soon broadcast them from a light atop his cab.
Mursal and hundreds of other Muslim cabdrivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport refuse to take customers they know are carrying alcohol. They don’t search bags, but a wine box may be enough to leave a fare waiting for the next cab.
Now, they may be required to buy different colored lights to sit atop their cabs so airport workers who hook up travelers with taxis can steer alcohol-carrying fares to cabs that will take them. The proposal needs approval from the airport’s taxi cab advisory committee, and airport officials hope to have the lights ready by year’s end.
Cabbies without the light who refuse fares will be sent to the back of line – often a three-hour wait until it’s their turn again for a fare. Some drivers said they’d rather wait for another fare than risk punishment in the afterlife. “It is forbidden in Islam to carry alcohol,” Mursal said.
Airport spokesman Pat Hogan said the first refusals to carry alcohol began 10 years ago, but came from just a handful of drivers. Now, though, he estimates that three-quarters of the 900 airport cabdrivers are Somali, most of them Muslim.
Hogan said drunken passengers haven’t had trouble getting a cab, just the ones who let on that they’re 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 were taken aback with 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 McKinley, Texas. “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.”