Common Roots hung a sign in the window this month at 26th & Lyndale. It stated: “Hate has no business here.” The sign said they stand with Muslim, refugee and immigrant community members, and said all are welcome.
More than a dozen other local shops — including The Nicollet, Butter, the 36th & Lyndale BP station and Pizza Nea — posted the sign, and the small business advocacy group Main Street Alliance promoted it nationally. The signs have reached an LA flea market, a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn and a quilt shop in Oregon, with shops tweeting under the hashtag #HateHasNoBizHere.
Burlesque of Northeast has partnered on another campaign to print storefront window stickers declaring “Refugees Welcome.”
“We do try to live our values through our business,” said Common Roots co-owner Elana Schwartzman, who created the poster with her husband Danny. “Unfortunately we see an increase in hateful rhetoric and we wanted to not be silent. … We wanted to make it clear that this is a safe place.”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” saying a quarter of polled Muslims believe violence against Americans is justified as part of global jihad.
“You’re going to have more World Trade Centers. It’s going to get worse and worse, folks,” Trump said at a December campaign rally in South Carolina. “…These are people [who] only believe in jihad. … They don’t want our system and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
(The fact-checker Politifact ranked Trump’s statement about polled Muslims “mostly false.” Politifact raised questions about the Center for Security Policy’s opt-in poll methodology and noted conflicting findings in other polls.)
Minnesota leaders reacted to Trump’s comments in the following days. Rep. Keith Ellison said Trump should reread the Constitution. Officials met at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Minneapolis Dec. 14 to talk about preventing a backlash against Muslims after terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. At the event, the Minnesota chairman of the Islamic Civil Society of America said Islamophobic incidents had risen in recent weeks, saying: “It’s worse than after 9/11.”
The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is based in Northeast, documents citizen reports of hate crimes and discrimination. The group received about 15-20 complaints in the past two-and-a-half weeks, according to Executive Director Jaylani Hussein. Complaints include school bullying, an attempt to drive someone off the road, harassment of women wearing hijabs,and brandished guns.
“We see school children to be the most vulnerable,” Hussein said.
A majority of the complaints are based in schools, he said, and most take place in suburban or outstate Minnesota.
“We’re asking people to do a little bit more,” Hussein said. “It’s a good time for people to meet up with family and relatives and bring this subject up, and encourage people not to discriminate.”
Elana said people might think of Southwest Minneapolis as an enclave of tolerance. But placing herself in the shoes of Muslim neighbors and friends, she realized they might not know how the community feels.
“They wouldn’t know how [we] thought unless it’s vocally stated that we’re with you,” she said.
The posted sign of welcome at the 36th & Lyndale BP has already played a role at the tight lot. When a driver felt he may have been cut off because of discrimination, a staffer pointed to the sign and said they’re not that kind of place.
“He saw the sign, and I think that helped,” said General Manager Truman Danz. “We’ve found that no matter the religious background and ethnic background, good customers and nice people are good customers and nice people.”
Fartun Weli of Isuroon on Nicollet Avenue works to reduce health disparities for Somali women. She was grateful to hear about Common Roots’ sign.
“I’ve got to go and give them a hug,” she said.
Weli said Somali women worry about offending someone, and they worry about their kids in school and spouses at work.
“Everyone is scared,” she said.
She said Somali people are resilient — after all, they have already survived civil war. Their experiences give them an edge in combating prejudice, she said, but the anxiety can also trigger post-traumatic stress.
“It can be a really huge step back for people trying to move forward,” she said.
Weli said she appreciates recent gestures by religious leaders. One gesture came from a group of senior clergy representing Downtown-area faith groups, including two mosques. The group has met monthly for more than 10 years to share breakfast and build relationships.
“We felt the need to say something,” said Temple Israel Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman.
They bought a half-page ad in the Star Tribune Dec. 13, headlined “A Call For Compassion.”
“No faith tradition, including Islam, condones hatred and injury toward others, except as distorted by extremists,” they wrote in the ad. “…Much of the current vitriol comes from anxiety about the unknown and fear of the other. Targeting groups is not the answer. Our various religious traditions teach that it is precisely in the stranger that we find our common humanity. … Interfaith dialogue is the antidote to religious violence.”
Hussein said he encourages public statements as simple as the word “Peace.”
“I believe there is a great deal of good people out there,” Hussein said. “If you are out there, let your voice be heard.”