Canadian Landlord Ordered to Pay $12,000 for Not Removing Shoes in Muslim Couple’s Bedroom

ONTARIO — A landlord in Canada is expressing dismay after he was recently ordered by a human rights tribunal to pay $12,000 to a Muslim couple for disrespecting their religion, in part for failing to remove his shoes in their bedroom, which was used as their Islamic prayer space.

“I was humiliated. I was made to feel I have no rights. I was made to feel that I’m not wanted in society,” John Alabi, 53, told the Toronto Sun. “I feel powerless. They rented my place for only two months. Two months! It’s just not fair.”

According to reports, Walid Madkour and Heba Ismail decided in January 2015 to move out of the in-law suite of Alabi’s home due to their unhappiness with the room temperature, Internet usage and a desire for quiet time beginning at 10 p.m. Alabi had rented out the suite for the past 15 years as a way to help pay for his mortgage.

As Alabi soon sought to show the apartment to prospective new tenants, the couple asked that he not interrupt their prayer times, as they pray five times a day. The landlord granted the accommodation and said he would work around it. He also advised that he would give them 24-hours notice before a conducting showing, as allowed by law.

However, Madkour and Ismail requested that Alabi send a text five minutes prior to any showing so Ismail could have time to properly cover her body and hair in accordance with the Islamic faith. While Alabi did sent text warnings at first, he discontinued doing so after the couple didn’t respond to his notices.

Eight months later, Madkour and Ismail filed a complaint against Alabi with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The two claimed that he had failed to accommodate their religion as he discontinued sending the requested text warnings and failed to remove his shoes before entering their bedroom, which was used as their prayer space.

Ismail testified before the tribunal that “Muslims must pray in a clean area that is free of any contamination, including any discharge from humans or animals,” and that “a person cannot be absolutely certain that he or she did not step on discharge from animals or humans while walking outside.”

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Alabi disputed the charges, contending that he only wore his house shoes for showings, and even then, he wore rubbers over his shoes, which he said he removed before entering the bedroom. The couple fought back by providing video of Alabi wearing his shoes after being asked by Ismail to remove them, as she said it was “disrespectful” and “racist” to continue walking through the apartment in footwear.

Therefore, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Muslim couple and ordered that Alabi pay $6,000 each to Madkour and Ismail.

“The respondent discriminated against the applicants by failing to accommodate their religious practices relating to prayer times by providing advance notice shortly before showing the apartment,” tribunal vice-chair Jo-Anne Pickel wrote in the decision.

“He also failed to accommodate their religious practices by refusing to remove his shoes when entering their apartment and especially their prayer space,” she continued. “Finally, he also harassed them, at least in part, because of their religiously-based accommodation requests.”

Alabi said that he had been accused of harassment for noisily shoveling snow outside of the apartment, which they accused him of doing on purpose. The tribunal further considered his text “Welcome to Ontario, Canada,” which he sent in expressing disgust over the couple’s five-minute advance notice request, to be harassing because it implied that the Muslim couple needed to adjust their religion to comport with Canadian life.

Madkour and Ismail expressed satisfaction with the results of the hearing, telling the Toronto Star, “We don’t want anyone in the future to have the same experience. No one should be able to get away with it.”

Alabi has since sold his house and is seeking to appeal the decision.

“I don’t have the money,” he told reporters. “It has just shattered me. I am broken.”

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  • FoJC

    This is the result of state sponsored religion. Legal penalties for not obeying another person’s religious beliefs.

    Follow Jesus, find Wisdom.

  • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Justin Trudeau is ruining Canada.

    • Sisyphus

      Well he did help facilitate getting cannabis legalized, so there is that going for him.

      • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

        That explains why the pot smoking PM is clueless and inept.

        • Sisyphus

          So, you would prefer epileptics to take barbiturates to hopefully reduce seizures rather than use cannabis to effectively stop seizures, or cancer patients use opioids for pain rather than CBD & THC? Cannabis is typically delivered via vapor or an edible form and not smoked.

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            It’s not as effective for treating epilepsy in children as some would have you believe. In fact, a ketogenic diet tailored to each individual child has a higher success rate at treating epilepsy than medical marijuana. Besides, Trudeau didn’t go for legalization for medical reasons. He went for legalization for recreational reasons. He’s a recreational user himself, which explains a lot of his bad decisions.

          • Sisyphus

            I must admit to being just a bit disingenuous as I typically would advocate for using CBD for epilepsy, which is already legal. There is growing evidence the CBD&THC combination is superior to CBD alone in treating epilepsy. I do know data is not the plural of anecdote, but even while on Keppra my focal impaired awareness seizures only occur when I run out of cannabis. I’d like to think my decision making is relatively sound. My marriage has lasted 30 years and I am a tenured University professor. Also vape one or two dabs most days.

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            How long have you had epilepsy?

          • Sisyphus

            Diagnosed 5 years ago after multiple strokes while going through septic shock.

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            That sucks. I’m sorry to hear that.

            Have you ever tried Lamictal? It’s had amazing results.

        • DevilsAdvocate

          I dunno, seeing him being asked a question about quantum computing, and him explaining it on the spot, makes me respect him a lot more than my own country’s head of state…

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            That was pre-arranged and scripted. He is a failed part time substitute drama teacher.

          • DevilsAdvocate

            What makes you say either of those statements?

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            The truth.

  • RWH

    This has more to do with common decency than religion. Someone comes to visit, I (as with many others) ask people to take off their shoes so that they don’t track dirt on the carpets, all of which are quite light. They don’t like the rules; they can wait outside. Even though he may be the landlord, tenants get to call the shots when they are renting an apartment. The landlord was apparently an insensitive clod, and now he has something to think about.

    • cadcoke5

      The difference here is that, as landlord, he has some rights to. The removal of his shows may also be seen as requiring him to treat their holy area as such. In other words, he was being required to obey the tenants of their religion with his clothing.

      So, it also seems quite possible the tenants were seeing how far they could push this landlord into bowing to their religion. By not permitting future tenants to see the apartment, they could also punish him by making him loose out on some rental time.

      • RWH

        The landlord had the right to set up a mutually-accepted time for a visit. He had the right to accept their customs. The landlord thought that he could throw his weight around and call all the shots, and the tenants hired a good lawyer. The lawyer did his homework and assembled the necessary documents and proof, and then he cleaned the landlord’s clock really hard. The mess is of his own making. Religion really has nothing to do with it because the entire situation would have played out the same whether they were of any faith or no faith at all.

  • NCOriolesFan

    Wow a criminal in HIS OWN home. An extremely bad precedent for homeowners that want to rent out rooms.

  • Trilemma

    “Muslims must pray in a clean area that is free of any contamination, including any discharge from humans or animals,”

    What version of Islam is this? I’ve seen pictures of hundreds of Muslims praying in the middle of streets and on sidewalks.

    • MCrow

      *shrug* Everyone has different interpretations of how strict things need to be. Judaism has various interpretations on what “work” on the Sabbath means. There are hundreds of Christian denominations because of various doctrinal disputes. Islam is the same way

      • Trilemma

        All true. I did some more reading and found that Muslims are supposed to pray in a clean place. When they pray on the street, they’re supposed to use a prayer rug which many do but many do not. I think the Muslim couple could have been more accommodating by using their prayer rugs during the period of time the suite was being shown to prospective renters.

        • MCrow

          I feel that in this case, the landlord was more at fault. I spent three years living in Japan, and the cultural norm is taking off shoes when you enter a building. The renters are supposed to be able to treat it as their space so long as they care for it properly. I think had there been an arrangement to use the rugs, that would be fine. But even then, the landlord gave no warning a couple of times, so they would have been at a disadvantage regardless

          • Trilemma

            I agree the landlord was more at fault in many ways. The title of the article makes it sound like it was all about the shoes. If I were a Muslim, I would have always used my prayer rug because I would have had no way of knowing if the previous renter had spilled bacon grease on the floor.

  • MCrow

    His decisions to show the property without informing the couple is where I think the harassment would be decided by the tribunal. I’d expect that courtesy from a landlord regardless of creed. There’s some other things that were presented that establish a pattern.

    • RWH

      The Toronto Son has two interesting articles on this case. The couple videotaped the landlord refusing to take off his shoes. The landlord refused to give the couple five minutes notice so that the wife could be presentable. On the stand, the landlord waffled and danced around the truth. The lawyer for the couple produced a Facebook entry where the landlord poked fun at the couple. All seem to be damning evidence. This is more about disrespect rather than a case about religion.

      • Stinger

        “Toronto Son”?

        Wow, 3rd grader.

        • RWH

          Your time would be better spent if you bothered to look up the articles rather than disrespect others and make a fool of yourself. The name of the newspaper is the Toronto Son. It’s even mentioned in the article above.

  • DevilsAdvocate

    So – do you favor religious freedom, or the freedom of others to ignore such religious beliefs?

  • Chet

    Stinking unbelievable! Why did not the landlord merely have to put down a new rug, if anything at all.