Responding to concerns about prejudice toward Muslims, many 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 citizens to reject such behavior 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 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.
Among the several dozen names listed were: Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan, Tim Walz and Keith Ellison, who is Muslim and represents Minneapolis. All are Democrats.
No current officeholders from the Republican Party were listed. 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.
The ad was the brainstorm of Ellison and John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management, who describes himself as a “card-carrying Republican.”
Taft said “this isn’t a political ad in any way. Keith and I did talk about how we wanted the ad to be bipartisan. … It was a collaboration between a corporate Republican and a political Democrat that would start everyone off on a bipartisan note.”
Ellison sought signatories on “the political side of the ledger, and I took the corporate side of the ledger,” Taft said.
The ad has surfaced as seekers of the White House have heavily debated global terrorism and national security. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has called on a total ban on Muslims entering the United States, while others seeking the presidency have made a point of using the word “Islamic” when speaking about terror threats around the world and domestically.
Taft said that late last year he came 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 (CAIR), said he and Ellison had discussed how to best “push back on Islamophobia” and called the ad “a good first step” that needs to be followed by practical solutions.
“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.”
This message in the newspaper is “just a first step,” Taft added. “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. Also listed: CEOs Mary Brainerd of HealthPartners and John Noseworthy of the Mayo Clinic.
Among the education leaders who signed on: Presidents Eric Kaler of the University of Minnesota, Brian Rosenberg of Macalester College and Paul Pribbenow of Augsburg College.
“Our values don’t take days off and neither shall we,” the ad continued. “If you’re Minnesotan, you know this to be true. We know better. We can’t be tricked into betraying our values.
“It’d be so very, very un-Minnesotan of us.”
Financing of the ad was divided equally by all whose names appeared, Taft said. A note at the bottom of the page said the campaign operations for the current senators and Congress members covered “their respective portions.”
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