Problem of Space for Muslim Taxi Drivers to Pray at Reagan International Airport

October 22, 1999

Source: The Washington Post

On October 22, 1999, The Washington Post reported that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has asked for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation into the denial of prayer space for Muslim tax drivers at Reagan International Airport. CAIR estimates that 70 to 80 percent of the 1,700 taxi drivers who are permitted to pick up passengers at Reagan are Muslim. In March of 1998, a notice was posted at the airport's taxicab holding facility prohibiting taxi drivers from using that building "or related facilities to assemble for prayer or for other purposes." Some taxi drivers have also been ticketed for "obstructing traffic" when they try to pray outside of their cabs and other drivers have had their prayer rugs thrown away by the police. Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said that there are places where individuals can pray, but that group prayer by Muslims has caused traffic problems: "What we have found is that over time, the drivers have started praying in groups...It was a safety hazard. They wouldn't be in their cabs able to move." Hamilton notes that the airport has placed a canopy over a part of an adjacent courtyard for people to pray, but the group representing the drivers says that the space is inappropriate for prayer because it is noisy, exposed to the elements, and crowded with benches, tables, and phone booths.