After a landlord was convicted of pushing her Muslim tenant down a flight of stairs, a judge ordered her to respect the rights of all Muslims and to take an introductory course on Islam. Now the highest court in Massachusetts is being asked to decide whether the judge violated the landlord’s constitutional rights.
The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments next month in a case that poses interesting legal questions at a time when the country is grappling with anti-Muslim backlash following deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, both allegedly carried out by radical Muslims.
The case centers on Daisy Obi, a 73-year-old ordained minister from Nigeria who is the pastor of the Adonai Bible Center in Somerville, just north of Boston. In April 2012, Obi rented an apartment in her multi-family home to Gihan Suliman, her husband and five young children.
Suliman complained about the heat and electricity not always working, while Obi complained Suliman appeared to have 12 to 15 people living in the apartment at one point.
Pushing anybody down a flight of stairs is never the correct course of action. But can a judge order an American to have a forcible attitude re-adjustment?
Suliman testified that about a month after she moved in, Obi stood on the stairs outside Suliman’s apartment screaming anti-Muslim insults. The following month, while Suliman was taking her baby out of the car, she said Obi yelled anti-Muslim sentiments at her other children. Then, about a month later, Suliman said Obi accused her of ringing her doorbell, shouted at her and pushed her. Suliman said she fell backward down 15 to 20 stairs, hitting her face on the banister, cutting her lip and tearing a ligament in her shoulder.
While sentencing Obi last year, Judge Paul Yee Jr. called Obi “the landlord from hell” after pointing out that she had harassment prevention orders issued against her by two other tenants. He sentenced her to two years in jail on the assault and battery charge for pushing Suliman but required her to serve only six months, with the remaining 18 months suspended if she complied with certain probation conditions.
“I want you to learn about the Muslim faith,” he said. “I want you to enroll and attend an introductory course on Islam. “I do want you to understand people of the Muslim faith, and they need to be respected. They may worship Allah … but they need to be respected.”
Gee, one would think a Nigerian Christian would have a pretty good idea about the nature of Islam already:
A damning report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights graphically details a pattern of vicious and widespread atrocities committed by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In an update at the U.N. Human Rights Council of Boko Haram violations, the high commissioner condemns also reported abusive treatment of Boko Haram victims by Nigerian security forces and regional authorities.
The report shows violations committed by Boko Haram remain as extensive and far-reaching as they were when the U.N. Human Rights Council held a special session on the atrocities committed by the militant group in April.
Interviews by U.N. staff with former captives and survivors of Boko Haram attacks in northeast Nigeria present a distressing picture of horrific abuse stretching back months and even years. They include massacres, the burning down of entire villages, torture and abduction on a massive scale, including of children.
Maybe Gihan Suliman needs a sensitivity course on Christianity as well:
Obi said in a phone interview that she believes Suliman had a vendetta against her because she refused to allow her to let more people live in her apartment. “I’ve never, ever made a rude remark against her,” she said. “Why would I do that? I have three Muslims living in the house now.” Obi also said she believes Suliman hates her because she is a Christian.
Suliman did not respond to messages left at her home and workplace.