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St. Louis Cabbies Allowed to Wear Blues Gear As Muslim Driver Fights to Wear Religious Garb

blues-gear.jpg
via
Cabbies can wear this...but some religious garb is not approved?
Last month, we wrote about Raja Naeem, a local Muslim cab driver who says that the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission is retaliating against him for his religious garb -- and continues to discriminate by punishing him for his choice of clothing.

In response, Metro Taxi Commission officials say that they maintain a standard dress code for cabbies -- and that they've tried to accomodate Naeem by giving him exceptions.

Given his ongoing legal fight, Naeem and his supporters were especially displeased when the commission recently promoted a dress code exception it would allow -- for Blues sports gear.

"It is very hypocritical," Naeem, 49, tells Daily RFT.

As a quick recap, Naeem, a long-time cab driver in the metro area, claims that officials with the commission for months have been harassing him over his choice to wear a kufi (a hat) and a kurta (a traditional shirt). He and his attorneys argue in a lawsuit that it's his Constitutional right to wear his garb and that the commission's actions amount to religious discrimination.

Naeem, who first made headlines last year when he said he was unfairly arrested simply because of his clothing, estimates that he has now received more than a dozen tickets with fines because of his clothing. "I need to sit down and count," he tells us.

raja-naeem-religious-garb.jpg
via KSDK
Raja Naeem.

The commission, which is responsible for his licensing, argues that they have a uniform code that Naeem, despite efforts to make compromises, continues to violate. (The commission says that he applied for a "variance" that was accepted, but that he's still not abiding by those outlined terms; Naeem says he's being repeatedly harassed for no good reason.)

The official code is a white button-down shirt and black trousers. And, temporarily, it seems that Blues gear is OK, too.

Mayor Francis Slay tweeted this on Tuesday:

"I think them giving a variance just for sports teams...when they come for the playoffs, that's sort of a slap in the face to Mr. Naeem," says Chuck Cole, another cab driver who has helped Naeem during the dispute. "They are purposely going after him because of his religious dress. He never had a problem before."

Drew Baebler, Naeem's attorney, says that it's nice of the commission to give this exception -- but it would also be nice if they didn't make it so hard for him to wear his religious garb.

"If you're going to side and favor one [variance], you think you'd side in favor of the Missouri Constitution," he says.

Baebler also says that the relaxed policy for sports teams pokes holes in the commission's argument that the dress code is an important safety matter which makes it easier for patrons to recognize them.

"Quite frankly, the big jerseys that are untucked and different colors are nearly as long as the religious garb that he wears," Baebler adds.

Ronald Klein, director of the Metro Taxicab Commission, says it's a very small minority criticizing this policy and that drivers like the opportunity to support local sports teams.

"We allow the cab drivers to get into the spirit of it," he tells Daily RFT. "[It's] community involvement."

Continue for more of our interview with Ronald Klein and more on Mr. Naeem's legal dispute.


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26 comments
Sarah Penrod
Sarah Penrod

I can't get the article to load, but if the taxi service he works for is fine with him wearing it and it's not otherwise illegal(as in the nudists driving nude suggestion), I don't see why this is a problem.

Paul Howell
Paul Howell

If you ever have been in NYC taxis, you find all kinds of religious dress and dashboard icons. I don't care how my cabbie is dressed, as long as they don't play country and western music on the radio!

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Why is the Metro Taxi commission deciding what private citizens can wear to work? Why do we tolerate such nonsense from the government? Taxicab drivers are adults, and as adults they can decide what to wear to work. Let the cab companies set policy for their cabs, but anyone with a medallion should be able to run their business as they see fit without having a dress code police.

Jeff Willett
Jeff Willett

Boeing is not a service industry. McD workers wear what they are told. Period. You can wear what you want at the unemployment office.

Mark Swain
Mark Swain

Well then, nudists should be able to drive naked

James Madison
James Madison

True, but why is the City government forcing a private business to wear or not wear particular clothing? Totally outrageous that the city government thinks it has that power. REVOLT! Taxi drivers, wear whatever you want. Stop allowing the city government to intrude in your private affairs. I am especially offended since this particular driver is being denied his ability to practice his religion. Next, the city will demand McDonalds employees to wear pink tutus and Boeing workers to go around in lederhosen.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

how does them allowing a blues sweater change the fact that he is violating their dress code?

davecountsdesigns
davecountsdesigns

If he owns the cab then let him wear the religious garb. If the cab co owns it then they have to use it in the most efficient way. It is likely that the religious garb would drive away business. Therefore, he should be let go so they can find someone who would follow co rules and optimize the co's ability to turn a profit.

Jim Ploudre
Jim Ploudre

Put a Blue Note on that kufi already....duh

Jeff Willett
Jeff Willett

Newsflash- there are dress codes for service type jobs. Deal.

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

Sports is the only universally observed religion in St. Louis.

taboo..
taboo..

Why do people continue to think that they can do whatever they want. Maybe Naeem should get a job with a carnival troupe or a band of gypsies.

billgoldberg14
billgoldberg14

Not sure why this is an issue. My company has a dress code and I follow it, they do the same thing allowing cardinals gear when they are in the playoffs. Some nut case wants to break the dress code and then make a big deal about it then I say let him go. It's normal for people to get fired when they refuse to follow the rules

KITTY
KITTY

If that heathen bastard doesn't want to conform and wear western clothing, then send his rag head ass back to the mideast.  And just look at him. Who is their right mind would get into a taxi driven by someone who looks like they are ready to commit an act of terror!

Khalid
Khalid

He does not work for a company. He works for himself. Taxicab commision is NOT his boss. They are supposed to apply rules equally to all cab drivers.

asoloman
asoloman

@KITTY You are living proof of what happens when a family tree does not fork. Mr. Naeem's religious beliefs are protected by the Constitution. You should also know that under the same Constitution, Freedom of Speech gives you the right to voice your biased opinion, no matter how idiotic. I'll pray for you Kitty.

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