St. Cloud has dealt with tensions between Muslims and some non-Muslims for the past seven years, with incidents including bullying of Somali and other East African immigrants at St. Cloud Technical High School, women being screamed at in grocery stores, pig intestines draped on the entry of a halal grocery store, and offensive billboards and license plates.
Whether those incidents motivated a 22-year-old Somali man who stabbed nine people at the Crossroads Center on Saturday evening isn’t known and may never be known. The attacker was killed inside the mall by an off-duty police officer 5 minutes after the first 911 call was made. All of his victims survived.
Authorities said the man reportedly asked at least one victim whether they were Muslim before assaulting them and referred to Allah during the attacks. On Twitter, ISIL called the attacker “a soldier of the Islamic state.”
“The Minnesota Muslim community condemns all such acts of violence as inexcusable and un-Islamic,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
The St. Cloud School District has operated since 2012 under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after a Somali student’s harassment complaint led to a federal civil rights investigation.
In March 2015, students twice walked out of the high school to protest the lack of response to their complaints: A white classmate had posted a picture online of a Somali student and suggested she was part of ISIL; students were spat on, had coffee cups knocked out of their hands and had their lunches stomped on.
Lul Hersi, who has lived in St. Cloud for 14 years, said at a forum last January that “I have been spit on by young boys; I have been called a terrorist.”
Earlier in January, a crowd in St. Cloud attended a talk titled “Shariah 101” by Jeffrey Baumann, a Coon Rapids man who said he believes Muslims and sharia law will take over the country.
Near the city of more than 66,000, in St. Joseph Township, a billboard that targeted Catholic Charities for resettling Muslim refugees — even though the agency doesn’t do refugee resettlement of any kind — was taken down in February, just days after it was put up. The sign read “Catholic Charities Resettles Islamists: EVIL or INSANITY?”
The same month, state officials revoked car license plates belonging to a St. Cloud man that read “FMUSLIMS”.