Tenants’ religious rights violated by Brampton landlord who refused to remove shoes

Common courtesy should have avoided this having to go to the Human Rights Tribunal:

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has awarded $12,000 to a Muslim couple, who claimed their landlord failed to accommodate their prayer times and notify the wife when she was home alone before bringing in prospective new tenants for apartment viewings.

“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 panel vice-chair Jo-Anne Pickel wrote in a recent 38-page decision.

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

The decision is believed to be the first of its kind from the tribunal with respect to discrimination based on creed and housing.

The overall intake of human rights cases based on creed has been on the rise, up by 13 per cent to 837 last year compared to 741 in 2015. During the same period the number of inquiries specifically about Muslim identity went up by 39 per cent to 196 cases from 141, said the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

Pickel rejected the landlord’s argument that the tenants were attempting to “impose their way of life” on others, ruling that there’s no evidence to support the claim.

“This claim by the respondent echoes arguments that have become common within public discourse. Unfortunately, attempts by Muslims to practice their faith have increasingly been interpreted as an attempt to impose their way of life on others,” wrote Pickel.

“Far from seeking to impose their way of life on anyone, the applicants were merely making simple requests for the accommodation of their religious practices.”

According to the tribunal, Walid Madkour and Heba Ismail, who immigrated to Canada from Egypt, moved into their Brampton apartment in December 2014 and agreed a month later to move out of the unit by Feb. 28, 2015 due to issues with the temperature of the apartment, the use of the internet and the request for a quiet environment at night.

The human rights complaint was based on the events and correspondence between the couple and the landlord when the landlord started planning viewings of the apartment to prospective tenants in late February 2015.

Despite repeated requests by Madkour for an additional five-minute warning so his wife had time to put on modest attire before the viewings, the landlord John Alabi — a Christian, according to the ruling — would only provide blocks of time that prospective tenants would be coming, with 24 hours’ notice.

The tribunal found Alabi discriminated against the couple when he failed to comply with their request that he remove his shoes when he entered their apartment and especially when he entered the prayer space in the bedroom, which must be kept “free of any contamination, including any discharge from humans or animals.”

Source: Tenants’ religious rights violated by Brampton landlord who refused to remove shoes | Toronto Star

Swiss deny citizenship to Muslim girls who balked at swimming with boys

Forced integration rarely works and in general a more flexible approach facilitates integration, a less flexible one strengthens exclusion.

Accommodation for separate swimming lessons appears more reasonable than for refusal to shake hands: the latter is a more fundamental matter of respect and acknowledgement of the host society and its norms:

In the latest move to deny citizenship to those who balk at Swiss culture, authorities rejected the naturalization application of two Muslim girls who refused to take school swimming lessons because boys were present.

The girls, ages 12 and 14, who live in the northern city of Basel, had applied for Swiss citizenship several months ago, but their request was denied, Swiss media reported Tuesday.

The girls, whose names were not disclosed, said their religion prevents them from participating in compulsory swimming lessons with males in the pool at the same time. Their naturalization application was rejected because the sisters did not comply with the school curriculum, Basel authorities said.

“Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized,” Stefan Wehrle, president of the naturalization committee, told TV station SRF on Tuesday.

The case shows how those who don’t follow Swiss rules and customs won’t become citizens, even if they have lived in the country for a long time, are fluent in one of the national languages — German, French or Italian — and are gainfully employed.

In April, members of an immigrant family in the Basel area were denied citizenship because they wore sweatpants around town and did not greet passersby — a sure sign that they were not sufficiently assimilated, the naturalization board claimed.

Another recent case sparked widespread outrage in Switzerland when two Muslim brothers refused to shake hands with their female teacher, also citing religious restrictions. Shaking hands with a teacher is a common practice in Swiss schools.

After that incident was widely publicized, authorities suspended the naturalization request from the boys’ father, an imam at the Basel mosque.

The swimming case involving the two girls is the first to deny naturalization applications for not complying with a school program, setting precedence for future cases, Wehrle said.

This is not the first time Switzerland’s Muslim community has stirred controversy over swimming lessons. In 2012, a family was fined $1,500 for forbidding their daughters to participate in swimming classes.

The matter eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled that no dispensations from swimming lessons should be made on religious grounds.

In Switzerland, unlike in the United States and many other countries, integration into society is more important for naturalization than knowledge of national history or politics. Candidates for citizenship must prove that they are well assimilated in their communities and respect local customs and traditions.

In Switzerland, local town or village councils make initial decisions on naturalization applications. If they decide a candidate is not an upstanding member of the community, the application will be denied and not forwarded to canton (state) and federal authorities for further processing.

Source: Swiss deny citizenship to Muslim girls who balked at swimming with boys

Memorial Univ prof refuses to wear device for hearing disabled student, cites religious reasons

Hard to believe. And should her religion (unspecified) or religious beliefs not allow her to wear a transmitter, this has to be balanced against the right of the student to hear her lectures, which in my mind should prevail:

In 1996, CBC News reported that MUN sided with a student who filed a similar complaint against Panjabi for refusing to wear one based on religious reasons.

Panjabi was also reprimanded in 1985 for a similar complaint.

While in each of those cases Memorial University sided with the students, so far the Sears family has been given no clear solution.

Sears’s father, Bill Sears, told CBC Radio he is not satisfied with what he has heard from both MUN and the university’s centre for disabilities.

“All we know is that it’s going through the channels in there, but we have had no feedback,” he said.

“The Blundon Centre said they would work with the professor if William really wanted to stay in class, to come up with compromise — but to me, the compromise is that she wears the FM system. I don’t get the idea of her refusing.”

Bill Sears said he has been in touch with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, which are both looking into the matter.

He said knowing what his son has had to go through in his life with regards to his hearing problems, only to face this now in what is supposed to be a place of higher learning, is deeply disturbing.

“To see him denied education is an absolute travesty. At university, to run into this situation — it blows my mind,” he said.

“I’d love to see where it is written that you can’t wear a microphone because of religion.”

Given that Panjabi appears to be a repeat offender, perhaps stronger disciplinary action is needed.

Edmonton police set to unveil official hijab that Muslim officers can wear on duty | National Post

Practical example of accommodation (similar to turbans). Highlights again the difference between English Canada and Quebec, where even the more open approaches to accommodation (i.e., Bouchard-Taylor) would not accommodate religious symbols for officials in position of authority.

Edmonton police set to unveil official hijab that Muslim officers can wear on duty | National Post.

Sikh student who won kirpan case now considers leaving Quebec

A good update on the person who prompted one of the more significant reasonable accommodation cases before the Supreme Court, Gurbaj Multani, who insisted on his right to wear the ceremonial kirpan to school. The Court ruled in his favour, but imposed conditions (i.e., it had to be  sewn into clothing). Needless to say, the proposed Quebec Charter sends a signal to citizens like Multani that they are not fully welcome or accepted.

Sikh student who won kirpan case now considers leaving Quebec