A Minnesota man firebombs a Somali restaurant in downtown Grand Forks, N.D.
A Somali woman out with her family at an Applebee’s in Coon Rapids is assaulted by a woman who smashes a glass beer mug across her face, cutting it deeply, screaming at her to “go home.”
A school board member in Columbia Heights complains on social media that Muslims are “unsanitary” because of their wash rituals before prayer.
In the wake of a recent Star Tribune editorial on the “Un-Minnesotan” effort to create a more welcoming culture for Muslims, some readers expressed disbelief that the state harbors anti-Muslim sentiments, while others were angry that one immigrant group was being singled out for special consideration. Some also declared the effort “provincial” for defining inclusion as a Minnesota trait.
We disagree on all counts.
The incidents above, disturbing enough on their own, are not isolated. Somali storefronts in St. Cloud have been vandalized and, in December, the provost of Bemidji State University wrote that Muslim students there were increasingly targets of harassment. It was Minnesotans who, several times in the last few years, invited controversial pastor Usama Dakdok to bring his hate-filled gospel — “Allah is the god of terrorism” and “every Muslim is a demon” — into the state, including at a public school in Bagley and at two events in Bemidji last year before the uptick in student harassment.
In an incident first described in a Star Tribune commentary, attorney and human rights advocate Deepinder Mayell, born and raised in New York, was loudly accosted at a Vikings game by someone demanding to know if he was a refugee.
No one is claiming inclusion as a trait particular to Minnesotans. But neither is there anything wrong in attempting to say that as a people, we stand for this and not that. This has always been a state with a strong sense of what it means to be a Minnesotan and, thankfully, it’s more than cabins Up North and embracing winter.
We make no apologies for calling on Minnesotans to find the best in themselves and the courage to extend a hand to the newcomers who either we or our ancestors once were. Why Muslims particularly? Because they face the greatest challenge right now. Unlike previous immigrant groups, they carry the identity and customs that some see as those of the enemy. But the shopkeepers in St. Cloud, the students in Bemidji and Columbia Heights, the young woman in a hijab out for a meal — they are not the enemy.
We do have those in our midst who would like to be. That is undeniable. Five young Twin Cities men sit in custody, awaiting federal trial on charges that they intended to join ISIL in Syria. They insist they are “combatants.” Three of their compatriots already have pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid terrorists. The law should deal harshly with them and any others — Muslim or Christian, foreigner or native-born — who threaten the peace and security of this nation.
The call to Minnesotans is to demonstrate the intelligence and compassion needed to separate the wrongdoers from those who merely look like them, or who share a religion or homeland.