CAIRO A St. Louis Muslim taxicab driver in the central state of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against the local authorities, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission and a private security company, after being harassed and arrested for wearing a religious garb at work.
Wearing my religious attire is not a fashion preference, Raja Awais Naeem said, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
It is part of my identity and a necessary part of my religious belief.
Problems for Naeem, originally from Pakistan but now a US citizen, started after he was hired for Harris Cab.
Managing a shuttle service called A-1 Shuttle, he said his religious beliefs require him to wear modest, loose-fitting clothing and a hat called a kufi.
But that garb has run afoul of the taxicab commission's dress code for cabbies.
The commission's rules require a white shirt, black pants and no kufi.
Baseball caps are allowed, as long as they have no logo other than the taxi certificate holder.
He said he tried to seek approval from the taxicab commission to wear his religious dress, providing the commission an affidavit in October about the importance of the clothing he wears.
His suit seeks an injunction to allow religious dress for cabdrivers, and civil damages including attorney's fees and other costs.
Representatives of the city, the taxicab commission and Whelan either could not be reached for comment or declined to comment on the suit.
Filing his lawsuit, Naeem recalled times in which he was harassed only for wearing his traditional garb.
I don't understand how you can justify somebody wearing his religious clothes getting arrested, Naeem said in a news conference on the courthouse steps, where he was joined by other cabbies and his lawyer from the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Naeem also cited an incident in which he was written a citation by a Whelan Security guard in June 2011 for wearing foreign country religious dress.
Other times he had his taxi license suspended or was told he would be arrested for trespassing if he worked in his religious clothing.
In November, another driver Naeem supervised was stopped at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for wearing religious dress, the suit says.
Naeem went to Lambert to discuss the problem, but was threatened with arrest for being there in his religious garb, he says.
Most recently, he was arrested and charged with trespassing, the suit says.
The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of nearly eight million.