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Cabbies Ordered To Pick Up All Riders – Muslim Drivers Can’t Discriminate


Separation of Mosque and AirportOn an 11-0 vote Monday, Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) members voted to crack down on drivers refusing service, making Minnesota the first place in the country to decide how to treat Muslim cabbies who decline to transport alcohol-toting riders on religious grounds. Drivers who refuse riders will face 30-day to two year suspensions.

Also check a related post Amad made a while back here.

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Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at



  1. Hassan

    April 17, 2007 at 5:00 PM

    Muslim cab drivers are 3/4 of total 900 drivers there (I guess those who service airport). They should put trust in Allah, and leave the job, and insha’Allah they would get something better than this. Fighting this case in court would be waste of time.

  2. Shahzad

    April 17, 2007 at 9:11 PM


    Brother Hassan: Think again about your advice. If we want struggling cabbies to give up their jobs over the small percentage of riders who have alcohol, then let’s call on the following to also give up their jobs:

    All Muslims who work in banks or the financial system.
    All Muslims IT or software professionals who work on financial systems
    All Muslims that work for the government (they rule according to kufr, right?)
    All Muslims that work for taxation agencies (taxes are haram, remember?)
    All Muslims that work as cashiers at grocery stores (what happens if someone is buying pork?)
    All Muslims that are accountants
    All bus drivers
    And so on.

    I know I’m being tongue in cheek here, but seriously, if 75% of cabbies are Muslims are there no strategies here except asking them all to quit their jobs?

    Where are the grassroots ulema to advise them? Where are the proactive brothers that are going to organize the cabbies into a collective force to help solve problems in a proactive way?

    Allah knows best.

  3. Amad

    April 17, 2007 at 9:52 PM

    ASA, I agree with Br. Shazad, its not that cut and dry as one might think… we are not living in a Muslim country, and we are surely not living in an ideal world.

    Its hard to find a more halal job than cab-driving in America, so, let’s be careful of what we want others to do… because Allah forbid, that trial may come upon us when we have to decide between our earnings and compromising on some principle.

    This is definitely a question for the scholars… I think it may be a good one for Sh. Salman Oudah to ask… we’ll have to figure out some way to do so… Sh. Yasir, any suggestions?

  4. Hassan

    April 17, 2007 at 10:15 PM

    Salaam. I think I should have written more in detail what I was thinking. Anyway, to me the muslim cab drivers were already standing their ground by refusing, they must have something to stand on. Meaning, they would have asked the sheikh (atleast I would have) that if they can do this job or if they can do this job, if they should refuse certain passengers hence jeopardizing their job. Please do not tell me you believe they would have won this case, from US constitution and legal point of view, they had no case. So they stood their ground, knowing if they all quit, it may cause problem to airport passengers, and they might have negotiated terms. (but no legal case).

    And hence I am advocating that. But if they are not going to quit, citing that they do not have other jobs, and scholars allowed them to do this job, then I do not understand why they even dragged it to the current situation even. They should have remained silent, and done job without causing this uproar.

    By the way, whether we call people to quit job or not, if something is in sharia haram, then its haram, if something is disliked, then its disliked. Ofcourse I am not scholar, and I am not going to tell what is halaal or haraam (even in case of cab drivers, they are the ones who told its haram, not me).

  5. Ruth Nasrullah

    April 17, 2007 at 10:39 PM

    Asalaamu alaikum. Shahzad has a good point. We live in a country where we’re surrounded by haram things. For the sake of dawah, we need to pick our battles. According to the article, “There were 27 alcohol-related refusals of service out of an estimated 120,000 rides from mid-November to mid-January, one of the airport’s busiest seasons, according to recent MAC figures.” Is this worth going to court over?

  6. ibnabeeomar

    April 17, 2007 at 11:21 PM

    if they are 3/4 of a force of 900, i’m sure a strike of some sort would go a long way…fast.

    but yeah i agree with what sr. ruth said, its such a SMALL number of incidents, there’s no reason for it to get so blown out of proportion

  7. Shahzad

    April 17, 2007 at 11:33 PM

    Bismillah. I have a few extra points to add to this subject:

    1. Dialog is extremely important. Muslims everywhere in every profession must commit themselves to engaging their employers and society around them in positive ways to create goodwill and understanding. A fallback to the legal system to help solve problems happens often when there is absence of understanding between two parties. At the same time Muslims, must be tough when it matters, and develop that legal expertise as well. Time and time again, if have experienced personally, professionally and at a community level that when we engage those around us proactively, then solutions and accommodations are easier to arrive at.

    2. I am conflicted on Ruth’s idea of picking our battles for the sake of the da’wah. Every Muslim counts, especially when he/she is confronted with discrimination or is forced to compromise his/her Deen. But rather than fight every battle at a national level, Muslims need to be taught some basic principles on how to effectively fight their own battles. The first principle, I think, is dialog and constantly building bridges with others, like I mentioned in my first point above. And don’t tell me you have to be born and educated in North America to be good at that. I have seen many new immigrants of various educational backgrounds show excellent communication skills. And subhanAllah! Look at the skill of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in communicating and bridge building. A second principle is that moving away from haram at a systemic level requires gradualism and constant action.

    3. Finally, I find Muslims are quick to go the overseas scholar and get the fatwa, but are VERY passive when it comes to creating change in society in a dynamic way. Our scholars can give us the halal/haram verdict but it’s up to rank and file Muslim to show leadership when it comes to implementing Islamic guidance in the society within which we live. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had a bunch of brothers/sisters from amongst those cabbies that can provide such leadership?

  8. Mujahideen Ryder

    April 17, 2007 at 11:40 PM

    Man people are more drunk when they aren’t drunk and when they’re drunk, there not that drunk.

    Get what I mean? :-D

    They shouldn’t make a big deal out of this.

  9. Hassan

    April 18, 2007 at 12:10 AM

    Why the muslim cab drivers made this an issue on first place, if they did not want to follow through?

  10. inexplicabletimelessness

    April 18, 2007 at 1:24 AM

    As salaamu alaikum

    For now and future reference, to submit a question to Sheikh Salman Al-Awdah, you can go here, inshaAllah:

    They usually reply within a few days-2 weeks.

    wAllahu a’lam.

  11. Amir

    April 18, 2007 at 3:41 AM

    The airport can only impose penalties on taxi drivers operating within the airport though, right? i.e. even if someone has their right to pick people up on airport grounds revoked, they can still operate their taxi outside the airport.

    If that’s the case, then it’s not really a big deal: the owners of taxis have the right to refuse to do business with whoever they want; passengers have the right to refuse to enter particular taxis; and the airport has the right to impose whatever rules it wants on drivers who decide to enter its grounds; and likewise drivers should be free not to go to the airport to pick people up if they don’t like those rules.

  12. abu ameerah

    April 18, 2007 at 12:17 PM

    where’s a good cabbie when you need one anyway?

    Well…Conservatives in this country (like Dinesh D’Souza) have essentially rallied around cabbies who have chosen to discriminate against African-Americans or driving into “dangerous neighborhoods”…

    Why is this case such a big deal? Ah yes…it’s because the very same people have made it an issue of the “Separation of Mosque and Airport”…

    If businesses reserve the right to refuse service to whomever they so choose (as long it is not on the basis of race, gender, religion, etc)…why can’t these cabbies.

    The drunken masses (alcoholics) in this country need to wake up and realize that cigarrette smokers get treated even worse.

  13. Affad Shaikh

    April 18, 2007 at 12:23 PM

    I dont understand why people make a big fuss, here it was not about druken passangers, it was about people buying alcohol and taking it home in bottles.

    I would think that if it were about druken passengers, and Muslims were refusing to take them home it would be a much bigger issue, because then in essence what Muslims are promoting is drunk driving- or least that is how it will be preceived.

    I think the brothers are making a much bigger deal on this issue then they should. We have many other things to work on rather then fighting for the right to refuse to drive people who bought alcohol at the airport.

    Allah knows best.

  14. Umm Layth

    April 18, 2007 at 3:01 PM

    as-Salaamu `alaykum

    I think what they stood up for is a great thing. May Allaah reward them immensely in this dunyaa and in the aakhirah, aameen

    I would give them naseeha to open up their own business and taxi for themselves. My father in law can drive who he wants, when he wants because he owns his own taxi company and that is a ni`ama. No one is over you to tell you what to do and who you can pick up and can’t.

    On the issue of making a bigger issue then they should… Well, I suppose this isn’t our business but their own because they are the ones involved in it and the ones that chose to stand up for it.

  15. Shahzad

    April 18, 2007 at 5:01 PM


    I would have to disagree with Affad and agree with Umm Layth. Ever heard of the phrase “think global but act local”?

    How on earth is our community going to learn how to deal with the big stuff if we can’t effectively deal with the small stuff? Every person has a circle of influence, whether that be one’s family, one’s line of work or one’s community. And every Muslim is accountable with how effective he/she is within his/her universe.

  16. Affad Shaikh

    April 18, 2007 at 8:01 PM

    Thank God for disagreements because I don’t agree.

    While i think it is in every persons right to do as they wish and to work with in a collective or outside one. There is a point where you look and evaluate and possibly think whether a fight is worth it or not.

    I have no issue with the brothers standing up and doing what they did- more power to them, because in dealing with people I find Muslims more interested in running away with their back to the situation.

    However, where do we stand with America. Is this situation being used to present Islam to people? Is this situation helping to better anyone’s understanding of Islam.

    In the court of public opinion I stand up for these Muslims right to pursue this, but being a site where its largely a Muslim discussion I think we should reflect on this situation.

    We have a situation where in a USA/Gullup poll, most of you i assume are aware of this, Americans:

    Thirty-nine percent of respondents to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll said they felt at least some prejudice against Muslims. The same percentage favored requiring Muslims, including U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID “as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States.” About one-third said U.S. Muslims were sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and 22% said they wouldn’t want Muslims as neighbors.

    How does this situation help ally the fears and ignorance of everday Americans. I do not advocate presenting Islam in a way contrary to what it is or changing it, no I am totally against that.

    But from the Prophets seerah there were things he did and didnt do and he gave naseeah to us.

    The idea of Muslim owning the cabs as advocated by Um’Layth, yes that is empowering Muslims as well as teh Muslim community because as owners you employ others and set industry standards. The brothers should focus on trying to get to place to own these cab companies but until then if there is no haram in what they are doing then why instigate a fight?

    Just because they can? Or its a principled thing to do? I can sure tell you that working with the Somali Refugee community, the last thing to do is to pursue something of this nature because the community is faced with much larger challenges- especially the young Somali brothers and sisters.

    Its a matter of prioritizing and that is the reason i asked the question I did. Again, I support the rights of all Muslims who are pursuing and working to understand how to make the system work for them. But an internal discussion is well worth it, and this idea of think globally, act locally, please elaborate because i fail to understand what you are referring to.

  17. Umm Layth

    April 19, 2007 at 12:36 AM

    as-Salaamu `alaykum

    I posted a comment and it gave me an error. I also didn’t save, so here I go again, insha’Allaah.

    Firstly, can you, without any hesitation (without any fear) say that driving around people carrying alcohol is 100% permissible in the Shari`ah? What happened to ‘do not cooperate in sin and transgression? Our Beloved Muhammad (sallAllaahu `alayhi wa sallam) told us to beware of the doubtful matters and at the very least this issue seems ‘somewhat’ doubtful.

    Secondly, there are non-Muslims out there who believe just like these Muslims believe (and like a lot of non-cab driving Muslims believe) and would stand up for it as well but are afraid to. So it is praiseworthy that they tried. Now, they got their answer and their best way to go is what I said above, of owning their own business.

    Thirdly, brother, these are just common muslims. They aren’t leaders etc… They are just people who are trying to support them and their families and who want to work a job in the best way they can. As a group they have stood by each other but they had to, but amongst the other problems that the Somali community may have, again this is their business and they chose to stand up for something that affects them. It’s just like Shahzad mentioned. We each have our own universe to worry about as well.

  18. Ruth Nasrullah

    April 19, 2007 at 11:00 AM

    Asalaamu alaikum. Excellent points all around.

    A brief comment: I assume the cab drivers don’t work for the airport but nevertheless operate under the MAC’s rules. If that’s true, owning their own cabs/cab companies wouldn’t release them from the airport commission’s regulations. Again, that’s an assumption on my part.

    I go back to Shahzad’s previous comment about the many, many haram things Muslims in the US deal with on a daily basis. I’m curious to know if transporting women without hijab is an issue for the cabbies.

  19. abu ameerah

    April 20, 2007 at 9:59 AM

    “I’m curious to know if transporting women without hijab is an issue for the cabbies.”

    C’mon…now that is just trivializing the matter…

  20. Ruth Nasrullah

    April 20, 2007 at 10:05 AM

    Salaams, brother. That was a serious question.

  21. ibnabeeomar

    April 20, 2007 at 10:44 AM

    ive often had the same question – how does one treat situations of khalwa as a cab driver? (ie cabbie being alone with a non-mahram woman). i think that is a more relevant concern about the halal/haram of being a cabdriver, i dont think its trivial at all.

  22. Maverick

    April 21, 2007 at 4:01 PM

    I never understood what the issue was about, and it always seemed as if the cab drivers were making a big fuss over nothing.

    They are transporting a fare-paying passenger, that’s all. What personal possessions he/she may have on his/her person are not the business of the cab driver. That person could be carrying pork, weed, porn magazines, items of shirk such as a cross, etc etc.

    Whoever heard of cab driver refusing to transport passengers carrying those items?

    Do we have any examples from history? Any recorded examples that set legal or even fiqh precedent whereby (for example) the owner of a boat might refuse to transport a non-Muslim for carrying haraam personal items?

    If the cabbie was being asked to help transport alcohol that was being used for re-sale and regular business, then I can understand the refusal. But it is expected non-Muslims may be carrying haraam items such as alcohol, and that’s their business.

    How do the cab drivers find out? Are they going to ask each and every passenger if they are carrying alcohol? That’s ridiculous and goes against the principle of not asking too many questions.

    People make Islam hard for themselves. The deen itself is not hard on the people.

    Tell the cabbies to get a grip.

  23. Affad Shaikh

    April 22, 2007 at 5:19 PM

    I am happy to see people engaging in the conversation. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    I want to address something i inferred in Maverick’s comment- I understand what your saying but I think it is up to individuals to do what they feel comfortable with. True that prioritization is critical in how we engage in seeking out our rights as well as establishing Islam as a mainstream religion in the US. I give credit for the brothers to stand up and pursue this, because in honesty not many of our fellow Muslims will even bother to take the step beyond complaining. So I dont see the benefit of putting them down, and I am not implying you are but I feel that its on the verge of doing so.

    But going back to priorities, I do concur with the general sentiment on what is and is not important, that is a discussion we can have but without the people involved to present their perspective it would be an infinite open ended discussion, and that serves no purpose at this point. But in a way it is an issue of importance and not a matter of trivializing the situation. It is a legimate question and discussion but without the key players it might not be to fruitful for us.

    It is our business though, and thats why I do take issue with Um Layth when it is stated that its the Cabbies decision. No I take issue because i am a firm believer in that when the community of believers suffers its as if a part of my body is suffering- we can take that further when a part is doing well and succeeding i take pride in that as well. If we are a community of believers in the US and we think that each one of us lives in our diconnected world then we are doomed to not see the bigger picture.

    Why is it that a war can rage in Iraq people get killed and kids in school here in diverse California are called rag-heads and terrorists? Its not because its the universe i live in and a bubble i function in.

    I can go further and say why is that a tragedy happening in Virgina can bring together so many people? Its because we are connected and what happens in one place affects us in our day to day lives.

    Going back to the cabbies, again i commend what they did and give them mad props for stepping up to the plate. However, its over and now we have to learn the lesson that came from it. First, go back to the statement by the Imam:

    “We see this as a harsh penalty against fellow Americans only because they are practicing their faith,” the Muslim scholar said. “This does not reflect the American values of tolerance and accommodation.”

    What is happened in the aftermath of this is that Americans who are know nothing about Islam and might be skeptical about right wing extremists rants see that their life style is being attacked by Muslims who want to practice their exotic brand of Islam, and this is further equated as Islam being something foriegn and alien, so Muslims being less American or being able to live in America, and that directly feeds into this idea of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. Why are should we drive a nail into our own foot?

    We as a community face the realities of this situation in its aftermath. We definently need to learn from this and try to move on, and this means being cognizant of the “bigger picture” and being able to provide insight if put in a situation in the future.

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