Muslim woman addresses in-depth what she calls an incident of Islamophobia in Stillwater
Twenty-four-year-old Sophia Rashid still had more to say about an encounter at the end of June in Stillwater.
Rashid called the incident a case of Islamophobia. She and her four-year-old daughter went to Stillwater to enjoy a walk along the St. Croix River and have a meal with ice cream at Leo’s on Main Street.
Rashid said she was dressed in a traditional hijab, an expression of her Muslim religion. She looked and dressed the same way for a meeting at the Dar Al Farooq mosque in Bloomington Tuesday. It’s a place where she feels safe to be herself and explain in-person and more in-depth about the hate she claims was on full display during the Stillwater visit, "I felt targeted, when you’re visibly a minority you learn how to analyze safety and the danger of a situation quickly, I always keep my eyes out just in case," replied Rashid.
Rashid and her little girl just wrapped up dinner when she noticed a group of men wearing jackets marking them as members of a known motorcycle club, the Aryan Cowboys. Others nearby had leather vests with Hell’s Angels or Outlaw Motorcycle Gang insignia. Rashid believes their clothing, behavior and what they yelled at her felt like an organized effort to be menacing.
In a report filed with Stillwater police, Rashid claimed to be harassed and worried about her and her daughter’s safety. She reported a biker warned her, "we’re watching you."
When asked if the bikers had just as much of a right to be walking around Stillwater, Rashid responded, "when it comes to free speech, everyone has the right to say and believe what they want, freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences."
Rashid alerted restaurant staffers and then took photos of what happened next and posted them on social media. The post has gone viral with more than 20,000 views, "I was so scared I told them, the teenager servers, to run with my daughter and the one guy got closer and made eye contact and started shouting at me, they never came over but he stared us down."
Rashid also called police, who escorted them back to her car and she safely made it home. When asked what type of conversation she’s had with her little girl, Rashid answered, "I don’t even begin to know how to address white supremacy and the issues facing our country with a four-year-old."
Stillwater police have confirmed they are investigating to see if there was potential criminal conduct. While there have been no arrests, Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said patrols have been increased for the rest of the summer.
The Anti-Defamation League considers the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood to be a white nationalist motorcycle gang formed in prison.
The FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center considers the outlaw biker gangs to be criminal enterprises.