A restaurant owner sparked outrage in Minnesota this week after he changed the sign outside his establishment to read “Muslims get out”—a message he insists people are “taking it the wrong way.”
According to FOX 9 News, the sign, which was erected following the ISIS-affiliated stabbing attack in nearby St. Cloud, attracted a gaggle of protesters outside Treats Family Restaurant on Monday. They decried the sign as offensive and inherently Islamophobic, but the restaurant owner—who asked to be identified solely by his first name—offered an unusual argument to insist that the message was being misinterpreted.
“I didn’t want to put ‘terrorist’ on the board, so we were going to put ‘Muslim extremist,’ but we didn’t have room on the board,” Dan, the restaurant owner, told FOX 9 News. “People started taking it the wrong way and thinking we were against Muslims in general and we’re not, quite the opposite. We are not racist.”
Dan’s creative understanding of the English language notwithstanding, the plain meaning of the sign appeared to confirm the fears of the local Muslim community, which immediately and forcefully condemned the mall stabbing but expressed concerns that the attack could incite anti-Muslim backlash.
“We are definitely concerned about the potential for backlash in the community, both in the immediate run and the longer term,” Jaylani Hussein, executive director in Minnesota of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Star Tribune on Sunday.
Spikes in anti-Muslim fervor are common in the wake of terrorist attacks, and the Minnesota Islamic community has already fallen victim to several attacks this past year.
According to ThinkProgress’ running tally of anti-Muslim incidents since the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France, the Umatul Islam Center in south Minneapolis was burglarized in February causing $5,000 worth of damage, and two Muslim men were shot and injured by a white man on their way to Ramadan overnight prayers in June. A Minnesota man was also arrested and charged for the burning of a Somali restaurant in a North Dakota town that sits along the border, and ultimately pled guilty to the hate crime.