A tribunal in Canada has imposed a $12,000 fine on a landlord for failing to take off his shoes when he entered his Muslim tenants' apartment.
John Alabi, a 53-year-old landlord who lives in the Toronto area, had rented out the first floor of his home to Walid Madkour and Heba Ismailin in December 2014.
In January 2015, the couple decided to move out of the apartment because they were unsatisfied with the room. Their lease was terminated in February that year, and Alabi sought to show the apartment to prospective new tenants.
According to Daily Mail, the couple took Alabi to tribunal court alleging that he failed to accommodate their religious practices because he did not take off his shoes while showing the apartment to prospective tenants, and did not give them enough warning before visits.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario sided with the tenants and order Alabi to pay them $6,000 each.
"I was humiliated. I was made to feel I have no rights. I was made to feel that I'm not wanted in society," the landlord said. "I feel powerless. They rented my place for only two months. Two months! It's just not fair," he added.
The couple reportedly asked the landlord not to interrupt their prayer times, as they pray five times a day.
Alabi claimed that he did everything to accommodate his tenants, and he also gave them 24 hours notice before entering the apartment, which he was allowed to do by law.
The landlord said that the couple asked him to text five minutes before showing up at the apartment to give Ismailin time to cover her body and hair in accordance with the Islamic faith. While Alabi sent them text warnings at first, he later stopped after the couple failed to reply.
The couple filed the complaint against Alabi with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario eight months later, claiming that the landlord ignored their pleas to remove his shoes before entering the room where they prayed.
Alabi maintained that the tenants never had a problem before when he wore shoes while he made repairs in the apartment. He claimed that he only wore his house shoes for the showings, and noted that he wore rubbers over the shoes, which he said he removed before entering the bedroom.
The tribunal panel ruled against Alabi, saying he had "discriminated against the applicants by failing to accommodate their religious practices."
"Unfortunately, attempts by Muslims to practice their faith have increasingly been interpreted as an attempt to impose their way of life on others," tribunal panel Vice-Chair Jo-Anne Pickel wrote in the decision.
Alabi noted that he only began renting out the apartment to pay his mortgage and said that he does not have the money to pay the fine.
"I don't have the money. I work very hard. If they go into my bank account right now, I don't have $12,000 there," he said.