Anti-Muslim license plates revoked

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, February 23, 2016

By Andy Rathbun

St. Paul Pioneer Press

For the past eight months, one Minnesotan has apparently been driving around with license plates that read “FMUSLMS.”

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The plates were being revoked Monday at the behest of Gov. Mark Dayton, who said he was “appalled” to learn the plates were issued by the state.

“It is offensive, and the person who requested it should be ashamed,” Dayton said in a statement. “That prejudice has no place in Minnesota.”

The Department of Public Safety learned of the plates after receiving photos from citizens Monday morning, said Bruce Gordon, spokesman for the department.

An application for the plates was issued by a deputy registrar’s office in Foley, Minn., and reviewed by Driver and Vehicle Services — a division of the DPS — before the plates were issued in June. The department, however, says the plates should not have been issued.

“We are in process of revoking and taking possession of the plates today,” the department said Monday, calling the plates “offensive and distasteful.”

“The Department of Public Safety apologizes for this error,” DPS said in a statement. “The Driver and Vehicle Services Division is reviewing its process for approving personalized license plates today and will immediately provide additional review and oversight of applications.”

The plates appear to violate a state statute regulating the content of personalized license plates. According to the statute, no “words or combination of letters placed on these plates may be used for commercial advertising, be of an obscene, indecent, or immoral nature, or be of a nature that would offend public morals or decency.”

The Council on American Islamic Relations in Minnesota said Monday that it plans to send a letter to the state asking for tighter oversight on personalized license plates.

“We are extremely concerned as a community that this type of expression of anti-Muslim (sentiment) is not only existing but we also missed looking at it,” Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said in a statement.”

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the council, said in a statement that this was not the first incident of racist or bigoted places plates in the U.S. The plates, he added, are “a symptom of the unfortunate mainstreaming of Islamophobia in our society.”

A photo of the license plate began to circulate after it was posted to Facebook by Haji Yusuf on Saturday.