A wash area at Kansas City International Airport’s taxi center was not built for any specific religious use, despite a widely distributed Web report, an airport spokesman said Tuesday.

“As constructed, nothing was built for the exclusive use of any ethnic group or culture,” said Joe McBride, KCI’s spokesman.

McBride said the Web report, which sparked heated public responses to airport officials, was inaccurate. The report, which appeared on another Web site, states that KCI had built several foot-washing basins in restrooms after Muslim cab drivers requested them to prepare for their daily Islamic prayers.

The wash area was part of a $200,000 expansion of the taxi dispatch center, which is separate from the airport terminals. The expansion was completed a year ago, McBride said.

The addition included two urinals, a sink, water closet and a wash area where cab drivers can wash themselves. The wash area has four 3-foot-high spray-shower heads and foot stools for each one.

The shower heads also can be used for filling up car wash buckets, McBride said.

Cab drivers at KCI often wait hours for customers at the dispatch center or in their taxis outside the center. There was not enough space for the expansion to accommodate showers, McBride said, but some kind of area was needed where drivers can freshen up for customers.

The airport, however, did not seek any input from the cab drivers about the expansion, McBride said.

Taxi drivers at KCI are of various nationalities and not all are Muslims.

McBride acknowledged that a few of the Muslim drivers might use the wash area to clean their feet.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington D.C., said many airport cab drivers are Muslim and need a place for their daily prayers.

The organization has put out an employers guide to religious practices that encourages employers to accommodate employees who wish to pray.

“A stool and low faucet that most bathrooms have will work,” Hooper said. “We’re not talking about building some holy washing area, but just a clean and convenient way for Muslim workers to say their prayers.”

Hooper said his organization has received “a tremendous number” of what he described as hate email messages because of the published Web report.


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