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Muslim trucker sues over alcohol load

Reuters, USA
June 23, 2004 • Thursday June 24, 2004

CHICAGO, Illiniois (Reuters) — A Muslim truck driver has filed a federal court suit in Tennessee against his employer, saying he was fired for refusing an assignment to transport beer, a Muslim advocacy group said Wednesday.

Ibrahim Barzinji, who is Kurdish and lives in Nashville, was granted the right to file the federal lawsuit against ex-employer J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this week, said Ibrahim Cooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group.

The Lowell, Arkansas-based transport company, which is among the nation’s largest trucking companies, could not be reached for comment.

Barzinji had worked for the trucking company for a few months and had transported a load of auto parts to St. Louis last June when he was told to go to a brewery to pick up a load of beer for the return trip, he told the Nashville Tennessean newspaper.

“When I saw it was a beer company, I called my dispatcher and said, ‘I can’t do this. It’s against my religion,”‘ and he asked for a different load, he told the newspaper. The company subsequently fired him.

Muslims are forbidden to deal in any way with alcohol.

Most lawsuits having to do with Muslims’ religious rights usually involve an employer not setting aside time for prayers or having to do with growing a beard, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Nashville said.

Cooper said a similar case arose a few years ago in Minneapolis where Muslim taxi drivers refused to ferry passengers who carried alcohol purchased at airport duty-free shops. It was settled by having the drivers skip those fares, he said.

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