Muslim couple files civil rights complaint after Tim Hortons worker tells them to 'go back to your country'

Hope Schreiber

An advocacy group has filed a complaint with the Michigan Civil Rights Department based on religious discrimination on behalf of a couple, who alleges that a Tim Hortons employee told them to "go back to your country."

Last month, Ameur Dhaimini and his wife, Alaa Kouider, visited a Tim Hortons in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on their way north for a family vacation. According to Kouider, who was born in Lansing, Michigan, an employee working the drive-through of the fast-food restaurant chain messed up their coffee order, The Detroit News reports. When they entered the restaurant to get the order corrected, an employee there became irate, insulted them, and told the couple, who are Muslim and Algerian-American, "This isn't your country. Go back to your country. I thought you had your papers."

The incident was captured on video.

"It was very hurtful — I've never been treated that way in my life," Koudier said at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter's (CAIR-MI) office during a news conference on Friday.

"This kind of discrimination here in the United States — it was very sad and hurtful," Dhaimini said.

Telisha Weatherspoon-McKinney identified herself as the worker in the video to The Detroit News and said she was "wrong for saying that."

Weatherspoon-McKinney, who just started working at the Tim Hortons a few weeks prior, says that she made the comments after the couple started to act rude to her, stating that "they also offended me."

A spokesperson for Tim Hortons confirmed that the employee was fired. The couple alleges that they received a call from someone from the company and were offered a gift card.

Amy Doukere, an attorney with the Council of American Islamic Relations, claims that this recent situation is part of a concerning trend of increased incidents of Islamophobia.

"We've taken in 40 percent more Islamophobia cases in the second half of 2019 than we took in the first half of 2019," Doukere said, "and that's up from 50 percent from what we did in 2018."

Kouider said during the news conference: "Those words that came out of that young lady's mouth that were intended to hurt, but most importantly they were intended to silence. I want to let her know and everyone else that's ever used a comment like that know, that we won't back down; we won't stay silent; and we definitely won't be going anywhere. We're here to stay. This is our country. I don't need to prove myself to anybody. And as long as there's room in America for bigotry and racism there's definitely room for acceptance and love."

Tim Hortons provided the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: "We always want team members and guests to have a positive, welcoming and rewarding experience at our restaurants. Franchisees are independent and responsible for all employment matters. The team member involved in this incident has been terminated by the franchise as Tim Hortons does not tolerate any type of harassment in the workplace."

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