Minnesota revoked and took possession of car license plates that read “FMUSLMS,” according to a news release from the office of Gov. Mark Dayton.
It capped off a weekend of protests from St. Cloud residents dismayed by what they saw as a divisive message directed at the region's Islamic population.
The unindentified owner was also due for some public scolding from Dayton: “I am appalled that this license plate was issued by the State of Minnesota,” he said in a statement. “It is offensive, and the person who requested it should be ashamed. That prejudice has no place in Minnesota.”
Social media buzzed over the weekend with reports of sightings of the license plate in St. Cloud, another in a series of incidents that have left some Muslims feeling unwelcome in the central Minnesota city with a burgeoning Somali population.
Some young St. Cloud Somali-Americans sent cellphone photos of the plate to Haji Yusuf, a community activist for #UniteCloud, a group trying to ease racial tension in the city. Yusuf posted the photo to social media, after which residents began demanding that the Department of Public Safety revoke the license plate, said Natalie Ringsmuth, founder and executive director of #UniteCloud.
The campaign was swift and successful. On Monday, the Department of Public Safety — which oversees the state’s car registration and licensing — apologized for issuing the plates, revoked them and said they were in the process of gaining possession of them.
Dayton also asked the Department of Public Safety, which administers car registration, to review its policies to prevent other instances of bigotry showing up on license plates.
The plate was obtained through a registrar’s office in Foley in June and was reviewed by the Driver and Vehicle Services Division, part of the process for personalized plates.
The incident comes amid a number of high profile instances of hostility shown toward Muslims in Minnesota, especially in the St. Cloud area.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Ibrahim Hooper said it's not the first time bigoted license plates have shown up around the country, calling the phenomenon "a symptom of the unfortunate mainstreaming of Islamophobia in our society."
Ringsmuth called the revocation a “win” for St. Cloud. “We love St. Cloud. We choose to raise our families here. To have so many people call and e-mail the state — it shows [#UniteCloud] are the people of central Minnesota, and they are the ones who are changing the narrative.”
Reporting contributed by Benjamim Farniok.