Ex-Muslims of North America booted from Starbucks for wearing their group’s tee shirts

I’m a great admirer of the Ex-Muslims of North America organization (EXMNA), whose President is Muhammad Syed and whose Executive Director is Sarah Haider. They actually do stuff rather than just talking, and they’re courageous to do it in public knowing that an apostate Muslim is, to many active Muslims, deserving of death. I suspect these apostates are even worse than Jews to Islamists! At any rate, to be a public ex-Muslim these days is to evince bravery.

And you also court the disapprobation of non-Muslim Leftists, who revere Muslims as Oppressed People of Color and demonize those who criticize the religion or its pervasive oppression. You’re also spurned by the many people who are simply afraid to be around ex-Muslims because their mere proximity means you might be in danger—but even if not you’re certainly around “Islamophobes.”

That explains the incident described on the EXMNA website (click on screenshot to read about it).

What happened is that EXMNA members were in Houston handing out flyers at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual conference, as well as speaking to conference attendees. That itself is a brave thing to do.  Taking a break, the EXMNA people repaired to a nearby Starbuck’s coffee shop. They weren’t protesting there, but simply looking for coffee.

But they were wearing teeshirts that said “I’m an Ex-Muslim, Ask Me Why” and “God Love is Greatest”.  Those aren’t even that “in your face”, but it was enough for Starbucks to kick them out. As the report notes:

“I was surprised. I was simply drinking my iced coffee and scrolling through my phone, and they told me I needed to leave, so I asked why”, says Lina an ex-Muslim Syrian woman who had traveled to the conference on behalf of EXMNA. “I was told that they are not allowing protestors at the property, I assured the woman that I was not a protestor. 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 premise 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.”

In other words, Starbucks was feeding them a line of bullshit.

Upon additional inquiry after leaving the premises, the hotel employees stated on video that the EXMNA group was not welcome due to their T-shirts, and repeatedly claimed the group was “protesting”, a charge which all volunteers explicitly denied multiple times.

“This appears to be a case of discrimination,” says President of Ex-Muslims of North America, Muhammad Syed. “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”.

. . . Armin Navabi, an Irani atheist activist, was in Houston on behalf of EXMNA. “Our goal was to see how tolerant Muslims can be, to our delight, we found many Muslims were tolerant”, he stated. “On the other hand, we found that many Westerners were intolerant. It seems that “saviors” of Muslims are more sensitive about anything that could potentially offend Muslims than Muslims are themselves.”

Hazar, another Syrian ex-Muslim who was in Houston for ISNA, states “I expected negative pushback of our presence by ISNA itself but in fact, most Muslims we talked to were welcoming. And so I certainly didn’t expect to be discriminated against on American soil by the Hilton staff for refusing to be closeted about my ex-Muslim identity. It was important for me to represent ex Muslims at ISNA because we are some of the lucky few that are able to do so with minimal consequences in comparison to those of us who aren’t privileged enough to live in a democratic society. And yet today, the treatment we received by the staff at the Hilton felt just as dehumanizing.”

Here’s a video of the EXMNA members getting the boot, apparently because they’re considered “part of the protest”.  Even someone not wearing a shirt with any motto was apparently prohibited because he was “part of the protest”.  But I’m sure they’d let Muslims in wearing shirts that said “Allah is greatest”, or religionists saying “I’m not an atheist. Ask me why.” This is simply discrimination against ex-Muslims.

I’m not sure about the legality of what Starbucks did, but I’m certainly going to write to them in protest. (Their drinks are overpriced, anyway.) You can see where to write below the video.

Reader Patrick, who sent me a link to the EXMNA article, adds this:

The ISNA conference took place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.  The nearest Hilton is the Hilton Americas, which does have a Starbucks.  Their address is 1600 Lama St., Houston, TX 77010.  Their phone number is (877) 421-9062.  Starbucks corporate complaint page is:  https://customerservice.starbucks.com/app/contact/ask/
A bit of my own complaint (I used the “In our stores” form and asked for a response):


  1. Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately I have nothing with which to threaten Starbucks since I never use them anyway, but I agree that throwing these people out was deplorable even if yechnically justifiable.

    • yazikus
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Same. I shall continue to enjoy not giving them my money.

  2. GBJames
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Sure seems like good cause for a discrimination lawsuit to me.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I would guess a Starbucks at a Hilton would be extra pricey. Looks like they will be shutting down again for more classes. Although, for X Muslims who knows?

  4. john Coelho
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    John Coelho Those wishing to express their displeasure and demand an accounting should call Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks at 206-447-1575. If you want to complain to the Texas ACLU chapter located in Houston, call 713-942-8146. If you want to complain to the Hilton Hotel where the event occurred, call 713-739-8000.

  5. Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I side with Starbucks and the hotel in this case. If there’s a protest going on right outside and the protestors attempt to bring their protest inside on private property, they have every right to shoo them away. Perhaps they were only getting coffee but if a large number of them come in at once, potential customers will think it is part of the protest and may feel intimidated. The security guard correctly portrayed their rejection as wanting to keep the protest out of their private property and not as an objection to their message. Also, the protestors didn’t seem to be concerned with getting coffee but trying to elicit some kind of political response and create a scene.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      My reading of a couple of different reports differs from your summary. The EXMNA group was not part of the protest outside the ISNA convention. They were simply sitting in Starbucks having a coffee.

      After they were asked to leave, they came back to ask questions. At that point, you could make the argument that they wanted to “create a scene” or you could say they were trying to hold the people who discriminated against them responsible.

      Asking them to leave in the first place was an overreaction, at best.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        When the security guard said that they need to keep the protest off private property, they didn’t tell him that they weren’t part of the protest. Unless I missed it.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Also, we didn’t hear the initial conversation inside the Starbucks or know how many were in there, at least not in the video linked here.

        • Taz
          Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

          Don’t you think if they were somehow causing a scene inside the restaurant there would be a video?

          Also, if she was lying when she said they were just sitting there drinking coffee when they were kicked out, then she’s one hell of an actress. Sure seemed genuine to me.

          • Posted September 5, 2018 at 12:11 am | Permalink

            I’d like to see the video if there is one. There’s usually two sides to every story.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

              I don’t understand why you’re bending over backwards searching for the “other side” here. It seems pretty clear to me that Starbucks, or the hotel security reacted wrongly and discriminated against customers on religious grounds.

              Just because there are “two sides” doesn’t make the sides equally reasonable.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      So if you are wearing the X Muslim t-shirt you are a protester. How about a t-shirt that says I am not a protester?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        “I’m an Ex Muslim not protesting, ask me why”. 😀 Or, “I”m an Ex Muslim having coffee”.

        • Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

          Someone needs to start an “Ex-Muslims Having Coffee” podcast.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

            Like the Seinfeld show: comedians in cars getting coffee but instead, Ex-Muslims in T-shirts, getting coffee.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      It’s not clear to me that there was a protest going on anywhere.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        “EXMNA members were in Houston handing out flyers at the Islamic Society of North America”

        Sounds like a protest to me. I will admit to reacting solely on the basis of presented information. Obviously I wasn’t there.

        • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          Handing out flyers needn’t be a protest, it’s just advertising your existence.

    • Posted September 7, 2018 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      You are making quite a few assumptions and/or misrepresentations here, Paul.

      The first one seems to be that “the protestors attempt[ed] to bring their protest inside on private property”. There’s quite a difference between a protester being inside (drinking a coffee or whatever) and a protester protesting inside. Especially since their “protesting” consisted of precious little other than simply having that wording on their t-shirts (also see point 2. in 2nd paragraph down).

      Then you speculate about “large numbers” of protesters that might “intimidate” other customers, even though there’s no reason to think there was any large number involved. In the clip we can see 4 people, including whoever is holding the camera – which is barely a “large number” for an hotel elevator. And there’s no reason to suppose that the total number of ExMNA members present was significantly larger than this, including the ones supposedly hiding in the bushes and behind the cameraman.

      Then you rather disingenuously assert that the guard “correctly” portrayed their removal as “wanting to keep the protest out of their private property and not as an objection to their message” even though:
      1. The guard repeatedly said they could enter if they took off the t-shirts – which is a rather explicit “objection to their message” – or at least as explicit as it can get without literally saying “I object to the message written on your shirt”.
      2. Neither the guard nor anyone else hinted at anything like distributing pamphlets or otherwise importuning the other customers, which in itself is a clear indicator that they weren’t removed for anything of the sort – i.e., for actually “bringing their protest inside” – but, again, rather for just having that message on their tees.
      3. Same guard later stated it’s irrelevant that they weren’t protesting (which, by the way, constitutes an implicit concession that they weren’t protesting).

      In relation to this latter point: somewhere else in this subthread you said “they didn’t tell him that they weren’t part of the protest” – even though they repeated several times they aren’t protesting, starting at 1:20 in the clip.

      In the end, you rather disingenuously say they “didn’t seem to be concerned with getting coffee”. Well, from all we know, they were having their coffee when they were kicked out. I think that kinda shifted their priority from getting their coffee fix – as it would with pretty much anyone else – to demanding an explanation about their expulsion.

      FFS, if *you* were kicked out from a coffee shop not because you made some scene before being kicked out, but simply because the manager didn’t like the innocuous message on your t-shirt (we’re not talking about racist slurs, cursing, agreed?) wouldn’t you be irritated, and wouldn’t your focus shift from getting a coffee to demanding an explanation?!

      Sure, there are two sides to every story. Can’t wait to hear the side of the guard who (initially) said they could go back in as long as they aren’t wearing those t-shirts, and how that somehow morphed into “they were kicked out for protesting inside”.

      (And never mind that the same guard doesn’t seem very versed even in stuff supposedly relating to his line of work, since he needed to be “reminded” that filming on public property isn’t subject to anyone’s approval.)

      • Posted September 7, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        You’re the one doing the misrepresenting. There was an “if” in my sentence that you conveniently dropped out of your quote. Several times I said that I would like to hear the other side of the story. My point is that one shouldn’t base one’s opinion of an event based solely on what we hear in the video. The “protestors” are just as likely to deliberately misportray the event as the security guard and management. You capture my thesis well with “from all we know”.

        • Posted September 7, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          There were exactly two ifs in your comment, introducing two different speculations. You yourself ignored the ifs (i.e., treated your hypotheses as established fact) by the very act of “siding with Starbucks”:
          • you said “‘if’ […] the protestors attempt to bring their protest inside”, then continued as though it were an established fact that they did it (in spite of, I repeat, having no other indication that anything of the sort happened, except for them not covering or taking off those t-shirts when they entered);
          • you then introduced with another “if” your speculation about large number of protesters, and waved on about how that would make other clients feel, conveniently overlooking that the “else” branch of this conditional was rather more likely.

          What I capture with “from all we know” is rather the opposite of your “thesis” – especially given that you treated as fact some hypotheses not only not supported by what we see in the video, but outright contradicted.

          Paying lip service to “wanting to hear the other side” is of little relevance when you deliberately ignore what we *know* (i.e., what can be plainly heard and seen in the video), and go out of your way to construct scenarios which you then treat as established facts.

          • Posted September 7, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

            Where’s all this coming from? It is an event in which neither of us was involved (I assume you weren’t) and both don’t know what really happened. I refuse to have an argument about how hypothetical my original statements were and how I didn’t keep up the necessary level of distance from “established facts” throughout. I will admit up front that I do not know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

            • Posted September 7, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

              For one admitting upfront he doesn’t know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, you seem to know quite a lot of things about their motivations and dance moves…

  6. Davide Spinello
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if they are going to impose another sensitivity anti-bias training to all employees.

    • Rita
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like a good idea.

  7. KD33
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Will this lead to Starbucks closing for a day to perform sensitivity training for all employees, as happened a few months ago when a manager asked two patrons to leave? I’ll bet not.

  8. ploubere
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I certainly support the ex-muslims in their protest, but this is a little more complicated because the Starbucks is in the hotel property, and it appears it is the hotel that is kicking them out and not Starbucks. The hotel might have a legitimate legal case in that it is private property being leased to the muslim conference, who would expect to be protected from protesters.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Except that they were letting in people off the street, not just participants in the conference. Or so EXMNA says.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        I suspect Starbucks would rely on the hotel’s security team for their security needs. I would guess it is in their contract.

        • Taz
          Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

          I would also bet that the Starbucks was open to the public, not for the exclusive use of the conference attendees.

          • ploubere
            Posted September 4, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

            Typically hotel lobbies are open to the public, nobody stops you from walking in and sitting down, as are Starbucks. But if you cause a disturbance, it’s within either establishment’s legal rights to kick you out.

            The legal question here is what constitutes a disturbance. Is simply wearing a message t-shirt disruptive? It wouldn’t in public but again, this is private property. It would make an interesting legal case, but I would guess that popular opinion would be that it is not sufficient.

            It seems however that the protesters were doing more than that in the hotel, if not the Starbucks, in interacting with attendees and distributing literature. That would probably be deemed sufficient cause for expulsion. Imagine an opposite situation, say it was a Planned Parenthood conference and anti-abortionists showed up and tried to do that. Would you consider it unfair to kick them out?

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Starbucks really seems unable to stay away from controversies these days. I rarely drink their stuff anymore as it’s crazy expensive and not really that great.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Maybe we could get jobs giving the next class. There is money in them there coffee beans.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Oh and it would be fun to do play acting as part of the class.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      National chains like Starbucks are increasingly targets for this kind of thing. They know that any issue involving them will likely get national attention.

      I’m with you on going elsewhere for my coffee. Some of the other chains are better, like Peet’s and Caribou. And, of course, the non-chain places can be even better but, unfortunately, much worse which is why chains thrive.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        Targets? Pity poor Starbucks, targeted by evil atheists? This couple simply went peaceably into Starbucks. They asked for coffee. It was Starbucks which initiated hostilities. How was Starbucks “targeted”?

        • Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

          After having read more about the incident elsewhere, I agree that what Starbucks did was wrong. Still, I would like to hear from the other side. What really prompted the incident? Who really complained and what was said? I haven’t found anything online that reports anything other than the opinion of those who were booted.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes. I like to drink flavored coffees like chai latte, or vanilla latte. A local coffee chain around here is called Biggbys, and their versions of these standards is far superior. SB versions taste very chemically in comparison.

      • Posted September 4, 2018 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Biggby’s is a splendid chain, mostly in Michigan. My local one is super friendly, and the coffee is excellent. They do vary from franchise to franchise.

        • Taz
          Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

          It used to be called “Beaners”, but that name rubbed too many people the wrong way.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Damn, I was just IN a *$$ reading this on my cellphone, before stepping next door to FedEx to type this response!!!

    In the back of my mind, I wonder if *$$ is worried about a violent backlash, but won’t say so.

    It reminds me of when Walden Books refused to carry Salmon Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”. However, that was remedied when Stephen King said they could carry not carry any King novels in perpetuity if they passed on Rushdie’s book. TSV was back on their shelves the next day.

    No comparable remedy is available here.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      It took me a second to translate “*$$” to “Starbucks.” I couldn’t figure out what you were cussing about.

    • Posted September 4, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      This was the first thing I thought, too. Starbucks is clearly afraid of becoming a target of terrorists.

  11. Posted September 4, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I think they screwed up. They should have immediately began filming when asked to leave Starbucks, and refused until the cops threatened to arrest them. Then their video might have had a chance to go
    viral like with the 2 black guy who did that in Philadelphia.

  12. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Starbucks does not learn fast about kicking out people for being Who They Are. Hanging out while black, and now this.

    • mikeyc
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Are you kidding me? Starbucks will win big with this.

      First, the people kicked out were Atheists; not even the MSM approves of us.

      Secondly, these atheists said some things less-than fawning about Islam, so obviously they are Islamophobic, which means to the left they are evil (and probably Nazis) and Starbucks is just being Woke(tm).

      Starbucks will come out of this a winner.

  13. Filippo
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Sub. Will be looking at the FFRF website to get their take.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      I just got an email from them: “FFRF calls out Starbucks, Hilton for ejecting nonreligious patrons in Houston”

      I expect it will appear on their News Releases page soon.

  14. Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    A woman kicked out because she had a problem with the Quran explicitly valuing a woman at half a man? Go figure!

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      I know, seems kind of bizarre, eh? Kind of like a black guy having a problem with the KKK; just seems a bit weird.

  15. Posted September 4, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    This seems a contradiction of their ballyhooed new policy. There was no disruption. Therefore Starbucks policy insists they are allowed. Such a violation of announced policy by a public accommodation is probably grounds for a lawsuit.

    • denise
      Posted September 4, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Since the ballyhooed new policy I’ve seen signs saying restrooms are for customers only in all three Starbucks that I’ve been in.

  16. Mark Joseph
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see that anyone has brought this up yet, and I do hope I’m not missing anything obvious, but isn’t it pellucidly clear that this is a blatant case of kowtowing to a religious group on the basis of fear of reprisal? I mean, can anyone even imagine that Starbucks (or the Hilton) would have kicked out someone wearing a shirt emblazoned with “I’m an Ex-Christian, Ask Me Why”, “I’m an Ex-Jew, Ask Me Why”, “I’m an Ex-Hindu, Ask Me Why”, “I’m an Ex-Buddhist, Ask Me Why”, or “I’m an Ex-Pastafarian, Ask Me Why”? No, of course not. And why is that? Because ex-Christians,…, ex-Pastafarians don’t attack apostates, or the places where they happen to be. And why is that? Either (1) because they don’t have religious justification to do so (this would mean that Islam is fundamentally a more violent religion that any of the others), or (2) the advance of secularism, which has defanged some of the worst historical excesses of religion, especially Christianity (don’t see a lot of witches being burned these days, even though the commandment is still in the bible) has not proceeded as far as it has in other, especially Westernized, countries.

    Good on the ex-Muslims, a very brave bunch, unlike the craven corporate servants (Starbucks or the Hilton) who chased them away.

  17. Posted September 5, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    What I want to know is whether or not these Hilton Starbucks’ employees took part in the sensitivity training that followed the Philadelphia incident. Was this Hilton Starbucks location closed? Were these employees adhering to or violating the training they received?

  18. Posted September 5, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    As someone who doesn’t always dress “conventionally”, I’ve always hated places with dress codes. But I’ve learned that there’s usually nothing one can do, alas …

  19. Posted September 6, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m an ex-Starbucks customer. Ask me why.

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