Full-page newspaper ad labels unease with Islam as 'hate'

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune

By Paul Walsh and Maya Rao Star
 
Minnesota leaders in politics, higher education, health care and business lent their names to a full-page advertisement in Monday's Star Tribune calling on residents to reject anti-Muslim expression as "un-Minnesotan."

"Though we may be a soft-spoken bunch," the ad reads, "we know better than to be silent or still in the face of bigotry shown to Muslims. Our Minnesotans."

The ad ran as presidential candidates have heavily debated global terrorism and national security. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., while others seeking the presidency have made a point of using the word "Islamic" when speaking about terror threats and acts around the world and domestically.

The ad noted Minnesotans' values of "sleeve-worn courage, goodness and kindness" and went on to say that "every intolerant post, every prejudiced comment aimed at Muslims needs a response. Your response."

Included in the ad is the hashtag #UnMinnesotan for Twitter sharing purposes.

The ad was the brainstorm of Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management, who describes himself as a "card-carrying Republican."

Ellison, a Muslim, said he was inspired by Minnesota's history, in particular when in 1965 the state's entire congressional delegation supported the Voting Rights Act.

"We do have this bipartisan history," Ellison said. "We may not agree on things like taxes and spending, but we thought we'd stand up and say this isn't all right."

Taft said the ad "isn't a political ad in any way. … It was a collaboration between a corporate Republican and a political Democrat that would start everyone off on a bipartisan note."

Ellison said publication of the ad was timed to coincide with Monday's Iowa caucuses in hopes of sending a message that Minnesota politicians and business leaders are not endorsing any anti-Muslim rhetoric with their silence.

"Let's not go ugly," Ellison said.

Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan, Tim Walz and Ellison were among the several dozen names listed on the ad. All are Democrats.

No current officeholders from the Republican Party were listed. Ellison said he asked Republicans from the state's congressional delegation to join the effort, but they didn't want to be included.

Former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, a Republican, did sign on, as did businessman Wheelock Whitney, who ran for U.S. senator and governor as a Republican.

Taft said that late last year he became increasingly troubled by the "level and the tenor of the Muslim rhetoric in the public arena. My concern wasn't just that it was inappropriate and mean-spirited, but that it was becoming dangerous and giving people license to behave badly."

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he and Ellison had discussed how to best "push back on Islamophobia" and called the ad "a good first step."

"Any effort to get the conversation started would be a good opportunity for all of us to have an open discussion at this time and push back this type of rhetoric," said Hussein, whose advocacy group was not involved in the ad's publication. "We are asking everyone … to be on alert that [anti-Muslim actions] are actually happening."

The ad follows recent moves by Dayton to speak out against anti-Muslim sentiment. He visited Columbia Heights High School last fall to call for the resignation of school board member Grant Nichols, who posted derisive comments about Muslims on Facebook. Dayton also visited St. Cloud to call for racial tolerance at a community meeting in October, as tensions surfaced between Muslim African immigrants and native residents.

In January, the governor wrote a letter to the editor of the West Central Tribune, praising the paper for defending African Muslims in Willmar.

"Minnesota is stronger because of our immigrant neighbors," Dayton said in a statement Monday. "I am proud to stand with this coalition … who have the courage to say: enough is enough."

This message in the newspaper is "just a first step," said Taft. "This is a declaration that we not going to tolerate intolerance against Muslims in Minnesota."

From business, names on the ad's list include: CEOs Hubert Joly of Best Buy, Ken Powell of General Mills, David MacLennan of Cargill, Andrew Duff of Piper Jaffray, Omar Ishrak of Medtronic, Randall Hogan of Pentair, and the Pohlads, owners of the Twins. Also listed: CEOs Mary Brainerd of HealthPartners and John Noseworthy of the Mayo Clinic.

Among education leaders who signed on: presidents Eric Kaler of the University of Minnesota, Brian Rosenberg of Macalester College and Paul Pribbenow of Augsburg College.

The ad cost just under $20,000, according to Steve Yaeger, the Star Tribune's chief marketing officer.

Financing of the ad was divided equally by all whose names appeared, Taft said.

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