NEWSPAPER FEATURESt. Cloud State grad faces anti-Muslim backlash in bid for Minneapolis seat

August 4, 20200

Nora G. HertelSt. Cloud Times

MINNEAPOLIS — Suud Olat has been the target of online abuse and anti-Muslim posts since he announced his candidacy for Minneapolis City Council earlier this year.

Olat, a 29-year-old Somali refugee, is one of 12 candidates running in a special election for City Council in Minneapolis’ Ward 6.

He’s not the only East African candidate, and he’s not the only one to experience racist attacks.

“Islamophobia is real,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “The more public you are the more likely you are to be targeted.”

Olat may get additional push back because of his ties to St. Cloud, which is home to some anti-Muslim activity, Hussein said. Olat’s parents live in St. Cloud and he graduated from St. Cloud State University last year. Hussein is also a SCSU graduate.

RELATED: Hope & Fear in Minnesota’s Heartland: Searching for refuge in St. Cloud

Targeted race, targeted place

Olat expected some opposition from people who oppose diversity and globalization, because he’s an activist and lobbied federal lawmakers to support international causes, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. But the attacks have made him fear for his safety and his family’s, he said in an interview with the St. Cloud Times last week.

“I feel like it’s really sad in 2020 we’re dealing with this kind of rhetoric,” Olat said. “I’m American. I love my neighbors. I have friends of all kinds of race, religion, culture.”

Olat’s address has been released, and he regularly receives threatening messages, although the bulk of the backlash happened when he launched his campaign, he said.

There are false articles posted that claim he has a radical agenda, he said. His key issues are tied to housing and safety for Somali elders as well as parking and other services.


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