State News

Video: Muslim couple told to 'go back to your country' by Ypsilanti Tim Hortons employee

July 19, 2019, 12:29 PM by  Violet Ikonomova

Alaa Kouider and her husband, Ameur Dhaimini. (Photo: CAIR Michigan)

A local advocacy group has filed a civil rights suit on behalf of an Ann Arbor couple who say an employee at an Ypsilanti Tim Horton's told them to "go back to your own country."

The incident occurred June 28, as Alaa Kouider and her husband, Ameur Dhaimini, were grabbing coffee at the Tim Hortons on Hewitt and Michigan Avenue on their way up north. A lawyer for the couple says they were treated rudely and refused service by the employee who made the comments.

The worker, who is African American, can be seen yelling at the couple in video taken by Dhaimini. At one point, she shouts "this is my country."

Amy Doukoure, a staff attorney with the Michigan Chapter of the Council on Islamic Relations, says Tim Hortons' corporate office did not respond to complaints submitted by the couple several days after the incident. A representative with Tim Hortons first called the couple yesterday to say the employee was fired, in the wake of media reports about the incident, Doukoure says.

Tim Hortons did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The suit alleges the employee violated Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act when she refused service to Kouider, who had come into the location from the drive through because her coffee was made with too much cream.

"The comments of the clerk were clearly xenophobic and indicate she wasn't going to serve our client because she didn't think they were American enough for her," said Doukoure.

The pair are Muslim and of Algerian descent. Both are U.S. citizens. Kouider was born in Lansing.

Though the incident occurred before President Donald Trump last weekend told four Congresswomen of color — three of them U.S.-born — to "go back," Doukoure says what happened "is symptomatic of the bigger probelms that are being created with this consistent provocation" from the Trump administration.

CAIR Michigan, she says, has received 42 percent more discrimination complaints in the first half of 2019 than it did in 2018. Doukoure says the uptick coincides with Trump's reelection efforts, which have relied increasingly on divisive rhetoric. 

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