A group of former Muslims were removed from a Starbucks at a Houston hotel on Saturday for wearing T-shirts stating, “I’m an Ex-Muslim, Ask Me Why.”
“You’re not allowed on the property,” a manager at the Hilton was filmed telling the paying customers, who are volunteers with the Ex-Muslims of North America.
When the group pressed why they were being removed from the restaurant, the man said, “You’re not allowed. You’ve got shirts right now.”
The volunteers were at the Starbucks taking a coffee break after speaking with attendees and handing out flyers at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual conference at the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center, according to an EXMNA press release.
After removing the volunteers from the hotel, the manager threatened to call the police on them if they tried to come back in.
“If you come on my property, you will be arrested for trespassing,” the manager said.
The manager appeared to have conflated the ex-Muslim volunteers with a separate group of protesters and counterprotesters squaring off outside the conference.
“I was surprised,” one of the volunteers, an ex-Muslim Syrian woman named Lina, said in the press release. “I was simply drinking my iced coffee and scrolling through my phone, and they told me I needed to leave, so I asked why. I was told that they are not allowing protesters at the property. I assured the woman that I was not a protester. She then asked me if I was part of the event or a guest at the hotel. I was neither.
“I was then told that even though I was a paying customer, I was not allowed to be on the premises as it was reserved for guests and event members for the weekend and that they will not be allowing anyone else on their private property. However, I noticed the Starbucks was still open to the public, and I didn’t see anyone else being asked to leave.”
Mohammad Syed, the president of Ex-Muslims of North America, said the incident was discrimination against the ex-Muslim volunteers.
“This appears to be a case of discrimination,” Syed said. “We were asked to leave the premises and informed that we could only enter the premises if we removed the shirts, none of which stated anything inflammatory. The treatment was unjust and especially cruel considering the plight of ex-Muslims. We are killed and abused all over the world for our disbelief. It is unconscionable that companies like Starbucks and Hilton acquiesce to conservative religious sensibilities.”
The incident comes less than four months after Starbucks closed all its stores in May to conduct anti-bias training to its 175,000 employees following the high-profile arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks.
Starbucks did not immediately return a request for comment.
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