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Friday, September 13, 2013

Taxi Commission Suspends License of Muslim Driver Raja Naeem: Religious Discrimination?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Raja Naeem and his youngest child. - COURTESY OF RAJA NAEEM
  • Courtesy of Raja Naeem
  • Raja Naeem and his youngest child.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission has suspended the license of Raja Naeem, a Muslim driver who has fought for many months for his right to wear religious garb. And this week, Naeem and his attorneys have pushed forward with the legal battle, filing both a petition for review with the circuit court of the city of St. Louis and a motion for an injunction in the ongoing religious discrimination lawsuit.

"I've got kids to feed. I'm very stressed out, there's no doubt about it," Naeem tells Daily RFT. "Should I stay with my religion or should I leave it? I am determined to stay with my religion."

Naeem argues that he has a constitutional right to wear his kurta, a traditional shirt, and that the commission -- which is responsible for the licensing and regulation of drivers -- has been harassing him with tickets and fines.

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

Ronald Klein, director of the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC), however, continues to assert that there has been no religious discrimination of any kind and that the commission has even made efforts to accommodate his needs. (The MTC's dress code is white button down shirts and black trousers; officials say it helps make drivers recognizable to passengers).

Klein and the commissioners have faced a series of formal complaints and legal fights from Naeem and a group of supportive drivers and attorneys. Most recently, as we reported on Monday, a coalition of cabbies are disputing with MTC over the use of the Square credit card reader, a popular technology that is used all over the country, but currently banned in St. Louis taxicabs.

Raja Naeem with his wife and four children. - COURTESY OF RAJA NAEEM
  • Courtesy of Raja Naeem
  • Raja Naeem with his wife and four children.

In the religious discrimination case, which began last December, Naeem has been issued many violations for his choice of clothing.

"This is a real test for me," says Naeem, who has four daughters, an eight-month-old, a five-year-old, a seven-year-old and a twelve-year-old.

See also: Porn Playing In St. Louis Taxi? After Woman's Allegations, Commission Bans Videos In Cabs

"What they've continued to do is harass Raja and give him tickets," says attorney Drew Baebler, who filed the new petitions this week. "He is just trying to exercise his religion while supporting his family. It's a shame that a commission from the state of Missouri is keeping him from doing that."

Raja Naeem speaking at a press conference last year. - VIA KSDK (CHANNEL 5)

Baebler has requested a preliminary and permanent injunction against the MTC to block the tickets and fines as the lawsuit is pending, arguing that "a suspension will have a deleterious effect and will cause immediate economic deprivation to the Plaintiff."

The request continues:

The Plaintiff has no immediate action at law to redress this claim, because, by the time his civil action has been heard, the economic harm to himself and his family of four children and a wife will be sustained and irreversible;

As stated in Plaintiff's previous Petition, Raja Naeem has a constitutional right to exercise and practice his religion as he feels is necessary.

"They are trying to run roughshod over him," Baebler says.

Continue for more from Drew Baebler and response from MTC director Ronald Klein.

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