ST. LOUIS – An Islamic cab driver fighting to wear traditional Muslim clothes to work was victorious in court Friday.
He may have won Friday's battle, but not the fight.
Raja Naeem could have lost his job because he refused to wear the taxi cab commissions mandated dress of black pants and a white top. The judge listened to whether this is a case of deep religious conviction or a fashion statement intentionally worn to mock the commission's rules and regulations.
Naeem, an American citizen, says he wears a Kurta and Shalwar because of his deep religious convictions. Since 2012 he's been ticketed 34 times for wearing the Islamic attire. As a result, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission revoked his license.
The Commission made concessions saying he could wear a white Kurta, as long as his Shalwar was black.
In court, the judge stated, "No one cares about the color of a cab driver's pants."
"The civics and convention boards care. This is a uniform and there is a dress code," said Neil Bruntrager, the Commission's attorney.
He argued Naeem was making a fashion statement not practicing religious convictions.
"There is no fashion over here. No doubt about that. I don't do it for fashion," said Naeem.
The judge cautioned there should be a limit to what he called the nanny state and questioned whether the Commision's dress code was appropriate. In the end, the judge ruled, "The Commission can't make him wear black pants until I review the merits of this case."
That allows Naeem to continue working without fear of being ticketed. Or does it?
"We will continue to enforce the rules and regulations of the Commission because that is what we are supposed to do. So you are going to keep ticketing him? If he's in violation I suspect they will," said Bruntrager.
"I heard council say they are going to ticket him, well, that is a problem, there is a disconnect there," said Naeem's attorney.
The judge will review briefs, and hear arguments in the case may 19th and could issue a final ruling at that time.