US Airport Accommodates Muslim Prayers

SF Airport Provides Muslim Prayer RoomCAIRO – Making it easier for hundreds of Muslim taxi-drivers to perform their religious duties, San Francisco International Airport has specified a special place for wudu’ (ablution) and prayers.

“We are very happy,” Ahmed Algazali, 49, a Muslim driver from Yemen, toldSan Francisco Chronicle.

Airport authorities have decided to allocate a place in the garage for Muslim taxi-drivers to perform their prayers.

Muslim Prayers

The move came in response to a request by Royal Cab driver Hasan Khan, 52, a Pakistani immigrant, to specify a room for Muslim prayers in the airport.

Spending most of their day at the airport to serve passengers, many Muslim cab drivers had to carry large bottle waters around for their wudu’.

Otherwise, they had to use the bathrooms inside the terminal to wash — a practice not always welcomed by airport passengers.

In response, airport authorities decided to install wash equipment on the ground floor of the main garage to help Muslim taxi-drivers to wash for their prayers.

Next to the wash equipment, an area was specified where the drivers congregate for their prayers.

Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.

The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with fajr prayer at dawn.

Then prayer times are divided from the time the sun declines, which is mid-day, until the darkening of the night, includes Zuhr (noon prayer), `Asr (evening prayer), Maghrib (sunset prayer) and `Ishaa’ (night prayer).

State and federal laws require employers to accommodate the religious practices of workers unless they unduly burden the company.

Rightist Criticism

Airport authorities say they are keen on maintaining good relations with Muslim service providers.

“The way we look at it…this was in the interest of maintaining a good relationship with ground transportation providers,’’ says airport spokesman Doug Yakel.

The spokesman described the costs of the prayer room as nominal, with the work done by in-house plumbers.

Yet, the move drew fire from right-wingers on claims of using tax money to support Muslims.

“On taxpayers’ tab: Muslim prayer room, foot baths at San Fran International Airport,” read an article published by the Washington Times on June 10.

Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.

Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.

A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last month found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.

It showed that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.

An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.


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