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In 2006, voters in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District elected the first Muslim to Congress and last year, they elected Ilhan Omar, the first of two Muslim women to serve in the U.S. House. Both were historic elections, but they’ve been coupled with falsehoods about Islam.
We’ve fact-checked some of them. Social media posts falsely claimed, for example, that former President Barack Obama settled 43,000 Somalian refugees in Minnesota to help elect Omar. Other posts falsely claimed Omar said, "I think all white men should be put in chains as slaves because they will never submit to Islam."
Now a May 8 Facebook post with a false claim about Minneapolis, which Omar represents, is gaining traction.
"The city of Minneapolis has set up a Sharia hotline for residents to report citizens who criticize Islam, in order to prosecute them for ‘hate crimes,’" reads the text above a photo of a woman wearing a hijab. "Wake up America!"
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Here are the facts:
In June 2017, the city of Minneapolis opened a new hotline to report hate crimes. A hate crime, according to the city, "is any crime against a person or property motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity. This includes prejudice-motivated property damage (including graffiti), stalking and assault."
Reporting citizens who "criticize Islam" is not listed.
At the time, Velma Korbel, director of the city’s Department of Civil Rights, said "hate-motivated speech" had no place in Minneapolis. That raised suspicions about free speech. But Korbel later said the hotline "is not a tool to curtail anybody’s free speech, nor is it set up to compel anybody to worship or not worship in a way that they choose."
The city isn’t the first to debut such a hotline (see: New York City and Seattle, among others), but as the Star Tribune reported in July 2017, it became "a focal point of criticism in the blogosphere, where it was called a political move designed to quell speech in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election."
One website, which called it a "Sharia hotline for hate speech snitches," included a comment by former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who said the hotline was a way to impose "Islamic anti-blasphemy laws on non-Muslims." We fact-checked that and rated it Pants on Fire.
This Facebook post is also smelling smoky.
While Minneapolis announced the hate-crime hotline at a time when assaults against Muslims in the United States were on the rise, the new city service was not tailored to address crimes against Muslims and it makes no mention of Sharia. Rather, it’s aimed at reporting crimes motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.
We rate this post Pants on Fire.
Facebook post, May 8, 2019
PolitiFact, "Meme wrong about Somali-Americans in Ilhan Omar’s district," March 5, 2019
PolitiFact, "Facebook meme falsely attributes quote about race, slaves and Islam to Ilhan Omar," Nov. 15, 2018
PolitiFact, "No, Minnesota did not pass an an Islamic anti-blasphemy law. That’s fake news," July 3, 2017
City of Minneapolis, "New hotline to report hate crimes call 311 from inside Minneapolis or 612-673-3000," June 19, 2017
The Star Tribune, "Minneapolis launches hate-crime hot line," June 19, 2017
The Star Tribune, "Minneapolis hate crime hot line becomes a lightning rod," July 17, 2017
Pew Research Center, "Assaults against Muslims in U.S. surpass 2001 level," Nov. 15, 2017
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