Regina Mustafa is among a number of people seeking to become mayor of Rochester, 100 miles south-east of Minneapolis. If she wins, in addition to being the city’s first Muslim mayor should also be the first woman to hold the position.
She said that days after announcing her candidacy, someone posting as “Militia Movement” wrote on her website: “EXECUTE all muslims in America.”
“I have no way of knowing if the person is nearby or across the country,” Ms Mustafa told the Post-Bulletin. “These threats do have to be taken seriously.”
She added: “It was more of a general threat to all Muslims in America, but since this person did take the time to search me out and leave this comment, I took it as a specific threat.”
Ms Mustafa said she threatening words were left on a Google Plus posting she made last summer that included a photograph of her speaking at Peace Plaza in Rochester. She said she had reported it to the Rochester Police Department.
The city has a population of around 114,000 of which 12,000 are Muslims, the majority of them of Somali descent.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also asked police to investigate. “We urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this implicit threat of violence targeting a member of a minority community seeking to take part in our nation’s political process,” said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein.
He said his organisation had witnessed an unprecedented spike in hate incidents targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as President.
Ms Mustafa, who wears a hijab, said she largely felt welcome in the city despite occasional confrontations with strangers. She said she has had people shout at her from passing cars and on one occasion a man approached her as she sat in a coffee shop with her daughter and said to her “go home”.
She said she was also subjected to threats after announcing a bid for Congress last year.
Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department told The Independent an officer was investigating the incident but said that because the threat was general and not specifically directed at Ms Mustafa it be difficult to prosecute. He said the threat she received last year was eventually passed on to the FBI who located the person responsible.
Ms Mustafa, who said she is legally blind, said she had great respect for the local police but was concerned they were not treating this as a direct threat.
“I’m concerned they’re considering this as harassment,” she said. “I’ve suffered harassment – I know what harassment is. This is a threat.”
She said she was not halting her campaign. “That is what they’d want me to do,” she said. “If I go ahead and compete later this year, even if I lose, I win.”
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