‘Go back to your country,’ coffee chain employee tells Muslim couple in Michigan

Where have we heard that before?

Customers eat at a Tim Hortons coffee house of the Central Plaza on February 27, 2019. Credit: Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images
Customers eat at a Tim Hortons coffee house of the Central Plaza on February 27, 2019. Credit: Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images

Ameur Dhaimini and Alaa Kouider pulled up to a Tim Horton’s drive-thru window in Ypsilanti, Michigan, last month and ordered two drinks. When the store got their order wrong, the couple went inside to have the simple mistake corrected. Instead, they were confronted and physically threatened by an employee who told them to “go back to your country.”

The incident triggered a civil rights complaint against the Canada-based coffee chain, which failed to respond to the couple’s initial complaint for weeks, and even then offered a meager apology and a gift card for a free coffee. The complaint was filed on the couple’s behalf by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is claiming that the incident was a violation of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

These kinds of incidents are hardly new, but they have increased in frequency since President Donald Trump first burst onto the political scene in 2015. The number of hate crimes committed in the United States has risen every year since he announced his presidential campaign on a platform of racism and white supremacy. Since then, he has only further stoked animosity towards immigrants, people of color, Jews, and Muslims.

Trump’s racism was on full display this week after he targeted four congresswomen of color with a slew of bigoted attacks. The president took to Twitter to tell the four women — all Democratic representatives elected in 2018 — to “go back” to the countries “from which they came,” a demand echoed days later by racists in the crowd at one of Trump’s campaign rallies in North Carolina, which broke out into a “send her back” chant.


Like the Muslim couple in Michigan, three of the four congresswomen in question were born in the United States. All are U.S. citizens.

There is a strong connection between Trump’s open embrace of racism and incidents of hate crimes. The Washington Post did an analysis of Trump’s campaign rallies during the last election cycle and found that counties that hosted a Trump event saw a 226% spike in hate crimes afterward.

The president has largely refused to condemn white supremacists who have endorsed him or committed acts of hate in his name. In the most notorious incident, Trump appeared to defend neo-Nazis after a white-supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, that left one anti-racism protester dead and dozens more injured.

“[Y]ou had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” Trump said at the time.

Words like that have consequences. Just ask Ameur Dhaimini and Alaa Kouider.