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MI Muslim Group Files Civil-Rights Complaint Against Tim Hortons

Ann Arbor couple Alaa Kouider and Ameur Dhaimini, along with the Council on American Muslim Relations, are filing a civil-rights complaint against Tim Hortons restaurants. (Alaa Kouider)
Ann Arbor couple Alaa Kouider and Ameur Dhaimini, along with the Council on American Muslim Relations, are filing a civil-rights complaint against Tim Hortons restaurants. (Alaa Kouider)
July 19, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – A Michigan group that advocates for Muslims is filing a civil-rights complaint today against Tim Hortons restaurants, claiming a worker refused to serve a Muslim-American couple and told them to, quote, "Go back to your own country.'

At a news conference today, the Council on American Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter plans to release video from the incident, which it says took place at a Tim Hortons restaurant in Ypsilanti on June 28.

Amy Doukoure, a staff attorney for CAIR, says things went downhill when the couple said their coffee order was wrong and asked for a replacement or a refund.

"The clerk at Tim Hortons screamed at them the 'B' word, and then said, 'Go back to your own country,'” says Doukoure. “And she turned to the clerk and she said, 'This is my country, I was born in Lansing, Michigan. You can't say that to me. I belong here.' And the clerk was like, 'Oh, do you? Do you really? You don't belong here.'"

The couple – Alaa Kouider and her husband, Ameur Dhaimini – are U-S citizens living in Ann Arbor. They said the clerk, who appears to be an African American woman, seemed to be angered by his accent and her head covering.

They say they left a message on the Canadian-based restaurant chain's complaint line but have not heard back. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reached for comment, Tim Hortons said in a statement that they don't tolerate harassment, that the employee has been fired, and that the independent franchise owner is responsible for employment matters.

The incident bears similarities to a tweet this week from President Donald Trump, who said that Muslim-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Somalia, should "go back...to the country from which she came." Doukoure says it's one in a long line of divisive remarks.

"He is propagating xenophobic and racist rhetoric,” says Doukoure. “It's creating an atmosphere where it's okay to determine if someone isn't from America, and that they're not 'American enough,' because of the way that they look – whether it's based on their color, or because they're wearing Islamic religious clothing."

Doukoure notes that her agency has gotten twice as many complaints of anti-Muslim harassment and discrimination this year compared to last. She says the couple in this case is seeking an apology and wants the company to conduct sensitivity training.

The Department of Civil Rights will investigate whether Tim Hortons unlawfully denied service at a public accommodation based on religion or national origin.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI