By Dr. Mohammed Kaiseruddin
There are as many as 200 Muslim Cab drivers at O’Hare airport wanting to do their obligatory prayers on any day. I came to know that reality when I visited the taxi parking lot at O’Hare a couple of months ago. I am so grateful to Fayez Khozindar, Chair of United Taxi Drivers Community Council (UTCC), for making my visit possible and informative.
I witnessed a steady stream of Muslims spreading prayer rugs on a dusty traffic island to pray in congregation, about a dozen people at a time. For making wudu, in preparation of the prayers, they were filling small containers with water from a drinking fountain or large water containers some of them brought with them.
The situation has not been this dire, I was told. They had a regular water supply for making wudu and a large area where they had erected a tent, with permission from the authorities and using their own funds, to protect themselves from elements. This was a tolerable situation, although by no means anywhere close to being a respectable place for making prayers. All that was removed, however, for construction got underway in the area. No alternate temporary arrangements were made. In fact, their request to keep a janitor’s closet unlocked so they could get water did not reach at appropriate levels with decision making powers.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) got involved at Mr. Khozindar’s request. Contacts at the proper levels were made and the cab driver’s request for water supply was granted within a week’s time, alhamdulillah. In addition, O’Hare officials are looking into providing decent wudu facilities as a part of the new construction. We hope to be in conversations with officials about what else can be done for this vital need of the taxi and limousine drivers.
One more aspect of our life in America that I would like the taxi community to be aware of is the political situation. The past year was pretty scary for the Muslims, Latinos, African Americans and other minority communities. The election rhetoric was hateful and divisive like in no other election in the past. The surprise victory of Mr. Trump has created many anxieties among these communities. Mr. Trump’s ideas and positions seem to be changing towards less divisiveness, however, his key appointments provide no assurance for a real change. CIOGC is looking into the situation and exploring potential risks we might be facing in the coming months. It is very apparent that Muslims are not the only ones facing risks and discrimination, but other communities may face equal or even larger risks. It seems very logical to work with other minorities to support in their issues as we would expect them to support Muslims in our issues.
There has been an increase in hate crimes against minorities all over America. We need to be smart in how we deal with these. This country has strong values of non-discrimination and civil rights for all, so there is no reason to despair. City and the counties are already taking steps to allay the minority fears. As we trust in our Creator for our protection, we should not be shy at all in seeking protection from Police and other law enforcement. We need to bond together with our own community members as well as other minorities and caring organizations and individuals. There are plenty of those, Alhamdulillah. The Quran tells us to “repel evil with something better”. As we practice this value, we can definitely see that the support for Muslims will keep growing, inshallah.
I invite you to keep in touch with CIOGC to know what we are doing, provide your suggestions, report anything wrong that might have happened, or anything good that happened or that you performed.