by Sasha Brown
Eight Florida 'Star Taxi' drivers claim their boss made them choose between prayer and their job
For a practicing Muslim, prayer is as important as the daily sustenance on food is for people. Understanding this fact has brought about laws that protect both employers and employees against discrimination. Employees losing their jobs because of their race or religion often sue for financial damages and sensitivity awareness against their employers. Some win, some don’t. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and freedom in America is not to be stepped upon by anyone, native or not.
In Orlando Florida, eight taxi drivers working for a certain cab company were given the option to choose between practicing their religion or their jobs. These drivers are Muslims that need to pray in certain areas for five to seven minutes, five times a day. This means that time on the job has to be sacrificed because it is to their opinion that it is their right to practice their religion regardless of what they do for a living. With this case, the taxi drivers filed a suit against their employer because of the clear violation of state, federal and local laws that sates that employers must give reasonable leeway to drivers as long as it does not become a major draw back for the business.
In another town, a passenger complained of a taxi driver who refused to transport his family to their destination because they were carrying an unopened bottle of white wine. The driver stated that it was against his religion to let passengers carry alcohol in his cab because it is considered a sin for him. This is not the only case like this. Apparently, in airport taxis, Muslim drivers also refuse passengers who are carrying liquors. Unfortunately, unlike the first case, the other party or the passengers who were inconvenienced by this situation were not disciplined with a set of state laws. Since there are a lot of incidences and complaints due to this refusal, the only solution made as of yet is that cab drivers will have to go to the end of the line again and wait for at least three hours for another passenger hoping that the next one is alcohol free.
Public opinion and comments in different blogs suggest that there is a great division in this matter. It is hard to draw the line as to who respects who. Both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities are entitled to their own opinions, freedom to practice religion and freedom as American citizens. Would there be any silver lining defining the harmony and respect of two clashing opinions in the near future?
The close proximity of a driver-passenger inside a taxicab magnifies the issue at hand. More than half of the taxi driver population in Florida is made up of Muslims. Long taxi rides often lead to conversations about the weather, the economy, race and religion and before anyone notices, one has offended the other in a matter of opinion. It’s rude not to talk; it’s rude to talk. How do we know what to do? How do we choose what to say?
One thing is certain; we all have religious opinions. Anywhere we are the best solution is to just do our jobs since we are there for it first and foremost. As one of the employers said, being a taxi driver is not a decision based on race, religion or ethnicity. It is based on being a professional driver and your competency. Who’s ever side you’re on, the best way to demand respect to your beliefs is to show that you respect others’ beliefs as well.