Barred for Muslim Dress, Cabbie Says

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – St. Louis’ Taxicab Commission took away a cab driver’s license because he wore Muslim dress at an airport, the cabbie claims in court.
     Raja Awais Naeem sued the city, its Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, and Whelan Security, in City Court.
     The story began on June 12, 2011 when Naeem picked up a client at the airport. He claims a Whelan security guard issued him a ticket for wearing a “foreign country religious dress.”
     Naeem claims that he and his customer were detained for 30 minutes. He says he paid the $25 fine to the Taxicab Commission.
     Naeem also manages a shuttle service, A-1 Shuttle, which employs “one of more Islamic taxicab drivers,” he says in the complaint. Naeem, a native of Pakistan, does not elucidate the nature of his dress, but describes it as “Muslim religious dress.”
     He filed a complaint about the June 12 incident with the Missouri Human Rights Commission on Nov. 17, 2011.
     He claims he received another citation on Feb. 3 this year, in which the Taxicab Commission cited him for body damage to his vehicle and wearing religious dress.
     He says his cab was taken out of service for these violations.
     On April 30, airport security stopped him again, for wearing religious dress, Naeem says. He says he was asked to leave, was not issued a ticket, but warned that further violations could result in the loss of his license.
     He says his license was suspended on May 12.
     “On November 11, 2012, Whelan Security Officer Bruce Wroblewski stopped and detained Sohail Amar who was a driver working for Raja Naeem,” the complaint states. “Mr. Amar was wearing his religious dress.
     “As a result of wearing the religious dress, he was detained by the Whelan Security officer. Plaintiff Raja Naeem appeared to find out what the problem was. Raja Naeem was told that he could not wear his religious dress at the airport and that his driver also could not wear this religious dress at the airport. At that time, he was threatened to be arrested. The plaintiff was advised that he was trespassing because of his religious dress. Plaintiff was also told to get the airport rules from the airport authority, who would show him the rules. He was told this numerous times. As a result, on November 13, 2012, the plaintiff went to the airport to pick up their rules. He was advised that he was trespassing. Arrest was threatened if he did not leave the premises from Whelan Security officer, Mr. Sparks.
     “As a result of this confrontation by Whelan Security, the plaintiff was not given the airport rules and left the premises. Subsequently, on December 7, 2012, the plaintiff was harassed, detained and ultimately arrested by Whelan Security officers acting for the MTC and by police officers acting on behalf of the City of St. Louis at 9:30 a.m. because he was wearing his religious dress trying to exercise his religion. The plaintiff was booked and was falsely imprisoned and unlawfully detained at that time. He was issued two citations with fines from the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission for not being in proper uniform. He was also issued a citation from Lambert St. Louis International Airport for not being in proper uniform in violation of plaintiff’s religious rights and his constitutional rights.
     “At the time of his arrest, Police Officer Schubert, working for the City of St. Louis, took plaintiff’s religious hat from his head and threw it in a pile with the rest of his personal belongings, thereby insulting the plaintiff and his religious sensitivities. His hat is known as a kufi.”
     Naeem seeks actual and punitive damages for civil rights violations.
     He is represented by Drew Baebler, with Bauer & Baebler.
     Naeem is no stranger to legal wranglings with the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission. He sued the commission in City Court in May 2011, claiming it charged taxicab drivers and passengers illegal surcharges at Lambert Airport. That case was dismissed without prejudice after being removed to Federal Court.

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