For Mahamed Jama, a Minnesota taxi driver, the Islamic restriction on drinking alcohol is a seamless rule for life.

“He who carries alcohol, he who drinks and he who sells it are the same thing,” he says.

That belief could affect his livelihood.

The commission that runs the Minneapolis airports in May began enforcing a new policy allowing it to revoke the licenses of drivers who refuse to ferry passengers carrying alcohol — something that has happened to 4,854 travelers trying to get a cab at Minneapolis International Airport in the last five years.

“The increased penalties appear to have brought drivers into compliance,” airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said of the policy — a 30-day license suspension for a first infraction and a two-year license revocation for a second.

Although Hogan said the measure was implemented without incident, it has provoked outrage among some of the 900 cab drivers who work the airport. About three quarters of them are Somali, most of whom are Muslim.

“A few of them are really, really upset about it,” said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in neighboring St. Paul. “They believe they have been forced into something against their faith, something against their religion.”

Nevertheless, Jamal’s group does not support the stand taken by the drivers. “We don’t understand why they do this,” he said. The issue is really “a process of getting adjusted to new territory, new culture.”

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the drivers are using a “strict and rigid” interpretation of Islamic law.


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