Zooming in Cabbies                       

 

 

LIFE BEHIND

THE

WHEEL

 

OCTOBER 2006

 

 

 

 

  

Cabbies, culture clash at Minn. airport ;

Some Muslim drivers refuse

fliers with booze

 

Oren Dorell

October 11, 2006

USA Today

 

A traveler heads to a taxi at Minneapolis-

St. Paul International airport.

 

Scores of Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis who say their faith prohibits them from driving passengers with alcohol have sparked a debate over how far a government must go to accommodate Islamic law.

 

On Tuesday, a proposal to resolve the dilemma fell through when hundreds complained.

 

Muslim cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have been refusing to take passengers who carry wine or spirits from duty-free stores or who are loaded down with bottles after visiting wine country.

 

They've also asked dispatchers not to call them to pick up passengers heading to liquor stores and bars.

 

The drivers, whose beliefs are not shared by all Muslims, say the airport should accommodate a deeply held religious tenet. Others say the Muslims are discriminating against people of other faiths and attempting to impose Islamic law.

 

"These taxi cab drivers basically think they're living in they're own countries where it's OK to impose your religious beliefs upon others," says Kamal Nawash, president of the Free Muslims Coalition, which advocates separation of religion and government.

 

The Metropolitan Airports Commission said it had agreed to let cabbies use lights on top of the cabs to identify drivers who won't transport alcohol so passengers with alcohol could find a willing driver.

 

The proposal created a public "backlash," says Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the commission. The commission received 400 e-mails and phone calls, nearly all opposed to the proposal.

 

With Tuesday's rejection, the current policy that drivers who will not transport alcohol must go to the back of the taxi line remains in place.

 

That can force a cabbie to wait another three hours for a fare, says Abdisalam Hashim, a Muslim from Somalia who manages Bloomington Taxi.

 

"When I'm American, I have freedom to practice my religion and freedom to work anyplace I want to work," Hashim says. "This is the way we address Islam. ... We have the right to say this is how we do it."

 

More than half the airport's taxi drivers are Somali Muslims. Some customers have reported being turned away by four taxis before finding a ride.

Mahmoud Ayoub, an Islamic scholar at Temple University, says Islam mainly bans drinking alcohol, not transporting it.

 

"I know many Muslims who own gas stations (where beer is sold) and sell ham sandwiches," despite a ban on eating pork, Ayoub says.

 

One driving force behind the drivers' request is the Muslim American Society.

 

MAS was founded by U.S. members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which promotes the spread of Islamic influence through political parties and militant groups in the Middle East. MAS members say they do not promote violence.

 

"More than half the taxi drivers are Muslim, and ignoring the sensibilities of that community at the airport I think is not fair," says Hassan Mohamud, vice president of MAS of Minnesota.

 

Officials in other cities say they hope the Minneapolis situation doesn't become a trend.

 

Bill McCaffrey, spokesman for Chicago's Department of Consumer Services, says he has no reports of drivers refusing fares for religious reasons. "The easiest solution for a driver in that situation is not to work the airport," McCaffrey says.

 

Allan Fromberg, spokesman for New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, said, "We'd rather not be part of this story."

 

2006 USA Today.

 

Slain cabbie honoured as 'martyr'

 

Meagan Fitzpatrick and Vernon Clement Jones

The Ottawa Citizen; The Edmonton Journal

16 April 2005

Ottawa Citizen

 

Even as mourners crowded Edmonton's Al-Rashid Mosque Friday for the funeral of cabbie Hassan Yusuf, his friends in Ottawa's Somali community were relieved to hear that two more people have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death.

 

Mr. Yusuf, 41, a former Ottawa cabbie, was found stabbed, robbed and stuffed in the trunk of his taxi in Edmonton earlier this week. The car sat in a parking lot at the rear of a liquor store for five days before police found it Tuesday night. He leaves behind a wife and seven children.

 

Even as the funeral was underway, the first of three accused of killing Mr. Yusuf -- Karl Blair Strongman, 25, of Ponoka, Alta. -- made his first appearance in an Edmonton court. Two others for whom warrants had been issued, Ronald Adrian Crane, 27, and Deidre Renee Baptiste, 23, both from Hobbema, turned themselves into Edmonton police. All three face charges of unlawful confinement and robbery.

 

While they were placed in custody, hundreds of people, including numerous cab drivers, turned out to honour Mr. Yusuf's memory. "We believe that he was killed in a state of grace," Imam Tamer Ali told the crowd. "When a brother has died as a martyr for his family, we have to be proud of him."

 

Mr. Yusuf's children sat silently in the auditorium, close to the green casket containing their father. Collective chants of "Amen" hummed over the heads of the children as his four girls sat with their mother, Farhia. His three boys were across the aisle with the men of the mosque.

 

In Ottawa, meanwhile, outside the prayer room near South Keys that Mr. Yusuf used to attend, his cousin and other friends spoke about the tragic end to Mr. Yusuf's life, and how it could have been avoided. "It could have been prevented if he had been allowed to work professionally. But the doors were closed and he had to resort to driving a taxi," said one man.

 

Mr. Yusuf had two degrees from schools in Mogadishu and Russia and spoke several languages, but had trouble finding work in Ottawa in his field of agricultural science. He worked various jobs since immigrating in the early 1990s, including the assembly line at JDS. He upgraded his skills by taking courses at Algonquin College, but still couldn't land a permanent job. He moved to Edmonton about a year ago in hopes of establishing a career there, and was driving a taxi to make ends meet. He family was preparing to join him in Edmonton.

 

At the Edmonton mosque, Mr. Ali led the crowd in asking God to show Yusuf the mercy his killers withheld. "May Allah bless his soul and accept him, and give patience to his family," he said.

 

Not everybody was so forgiving. "The guy went through the worst nightmare you can imagine and then they killed him," said Barrel Taxi driver Marek. "Personally, I think there should be more punishment for a crime."

 

But Yellow Cab -- the company that employed Mr. Yusuf -- has to explain why it waited five days before notifying police about his disappearance, said Albi Mohamad, another taxi driver. "We have to know that this terrible thing won't happen again," he said. "The company has to look out for its drivers and that is a fact. Why didn't they do that for Hassan?"

 

Mr. Yusuf sacrificed himself to the job of feeding his family, another said. "I came to show my respect to the family and to him," said Sukhi Tahli.

 

It was a sentiment echoed by friends and relatives in Ottawa. His cousin, Saiid Shire, said family that was central in Mr. Yusuf's life. "He was a loving, loving father."

 

Whenever Mr. Yusuf got home after his children were asleep, he would go into each of their rooms and kiss them good night. Mr. Shire described his cousin as a caring, generous man who always made others laugh and had a positive outlook. If ever there was a conflict, Mr. Yusuf would intervene, said Mr. Shire. "In a word, he was a peacemaker."

 

Leaders of the Somali community are setting up a trust fund and will soon make the details public. Mrs. Yusuf will need financial help for the children, who range in age from one to 20, they said.

 

Staff at the Somali Centre for Family Services are in contact with Mrs. Yusuf to see how they can help.

 

Colour Photo: Friends comfort Farhia Yusuf at the funeral for her husband, Hussan Yusuf, at the Al-Reshid Mosque in Edmonton yesterday.

 

Copyright 2005 Ottawa Citizen

 

 

Slain cabbie a Somali refugee who worked helping children

 

Lornet Turnbull

February 03, 2004

The Seattle Times

 

Hassan Farah came to the United States 10 years ago, leaving behind the bullets and bloodshed of his war-ravaged homeland of Somalia.

 

In Seattle, he easily found friends and a community, and he quickly became the sort of neighbor people grow to depend on.

 

Four years ago, the Rainier Beach resident took a job as an instructional aide in Seattle Public Schools, helping Somali students adjust at a pair of South End elementaries. He also was the schools' link to the Somali community, which in Seattle is estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000.

 

The soft-spoken husband and father of three was also taking courses to obtain a teaching certificate. "Working with children was something he loved," his wife, Asiya Hussein, 29, said through an interpreter yesterday.

 

On weekends to make extra money, Farah drove a Yellow Cab.

 

It was in that cab, parked near Boeing Field, that police found Farah's body before dawn Saturday.

 

He'd been shot five times.

 

Late yesterday, Seattle police still had no leads or suspects in the shooting and knew of no motive.

 

Officials at Yellow Cab said Farah, 39, was an independent contractor, not an employee. They declined to comment further.

 

Other cabdrivers yesterday said Farah's death should be a wake- up call for more security in their business, including bullet-proof dividers between drivers and passengers. Cabdrivers also were slain in Seattle in 1996 and 1994.

 

The man with whom Farah shared his cab said his friend was planning to work until around 7 a.m. Saturday before quitting to attend a class he takes one Saturday a month.

 

"His backpack was still in the cab," said Deeq Farah who is not a relative but drives the same cab during the week.

 

"Imagine, he escaped the bullets in Somalia only to find them right here. He was a family man, a nice man. All these people you see here aren't even his relatives."

 

Dozens of taxicabs yellow, orange, green lined a stretch of Southeast 256 Street in Covington yesterday and took up the parking spaces of the House of Mercy All-Muslim Cemetery, where Farah was buried.

 

An ocean of male faces (women aren't permitted at some Muslim funerals) gathered at his grave site. From inside a van its windows tinted to block her from view Hussein watched as they laid her husband's body in the earth.

 

He leaves her with three children, ages 4, 3 and 1, to raise.

 

She speaks little English and does not work outside their home.

 

"When people have given me condolences, they say: `(The killers) didn't just take your husband from you, they took him from the community,' " she said, her voice stricken with grief. "There was no one who didn't know his face. From the south and north, everyone knew him."

 

She told her oldest son about his father's death; in time she'll tell the other children about the man their father was.

 

Farah came to the U.S. in 1993 from a refugee camp in Kenya, where he had put to use the nursing skills he acquired in his native Somalia before war tore the country apart and sent residents fleeing.

 

In 1999, Farah and Hussein met and married in Minneapolis, where she lived, and decided to make their home in Seattle.

 

Mohammed Ali, Farah's roommate here for two years during the mid- 1990s, called him a "nice friend.

 

"I know it will be hard on his wife. She has three kids and basically no income at all. You can understand."

 

Farah worked three days a week at Rainier View Elementary and two days a week at Cooper Elementary. Yesterday, students and co- workers were coping with news of his death.

 

"He was Mr. Hassan to our children," said Rainier View Principal Cathy Thompson. "He was a quiet man but very, very dignified. There are many here who are feeling a great loss."

 

Ali-Salaam Mahmoud, who had known Farah for five years, said the two had been working quietly together to establish services for the community's elderly. "He was very dedicated," Mahmoud said. "He worked closely with children because he wanted them to be able to exceed in school so they could see opportunities beyond cab driving."

 

On Sunday, a day after Farah's death and the day Muslims around the world celebrated the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, parents took their children to playgrounds following prayers. Asiya Hussein overheard her 4-year-old talking to a cousin: "No one will take us out today," she heard him say. "My dad died."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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