Minnesota's Council on American-Islamic Relations received a troubling missive in the mail Thursday: an empty envelope completely covered with anti-Muslim threats.
It's the latest in a steady trickle of hate mail, menacing calls, and death threats the civil rights organization has received since its founding, only standing out because of the strange intensity of its language. "Muslims use 'political correctness and our open society to set up terrorist sleeper cells in our nation," the letter claims. "We must purge ourselves of these vermin if America is to survive for our children."
CAIR-MN executive director Jaylani Hussein says he hears of threats made against Muslims and their organization regularly, something CAIR makes clear to new hires before they're welcomed on board. Though the letters telling him to watch his back and tweets with photos of guns have become just a part of the job, it's the times when threats are actually carried out that give him pause.
Thursday night, a group of teenagers lit a couple of crosses on fire outside a mosque in New York. Here in Minnesota, vandals shattered windows in a St. Cloud mosque four separate times in December. Muslim kids attending high school in St. Cloud report being called "ISIS." About two months ago, a Muslim couple in their 50s was held at gunpoint in Maple Grove by a woman who suspected they were up to something — they were actually sitting outside their apartment, waiting for their son.
"There are really a number of things that are happening where we don't even get the full story just because the people who come to our office ... we consider them brave because they choose to do more than just accept and swallow," Hussein says. "This type of mail, it's obviously someone trying to send a message. We don't know what the next message will be. It could be a lone wolf out there who wants to target mosques and Muslim communities."
The anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks will coincide with Friday prayers this year, and CAIR is already receiving threats of attacks on Muslim-Americans. Earlier this summer, armed bikers protested an Arizona mosque, and Hussein says he's been warned that this year might bring protesters to Minnesota as well. "We don't know how credible that threat actually is because we get a lot of things like that."