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'No Muslims' store sign sparks outrage in US

Islamophobia spiked since the launch of Trump's election campaign [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 January, 2017

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Calls to boycott a US store grew louder this week when a traveller shared an image of a 'No Muslims' sign hanging on the storefront.

A grocery shop in the US state of New Mexico is under fire for posting controversial signs - including one that reads "Obama & other Muslims not welcome here" - on its storefront.

The store, located in the tiny town of Mayhill - about 165 miles (265 kilometres) south-east of Albuquerque - has reportedly been posting such signs for years, but drew scrutiny after a traveller stumbled on the latest postings and alerted a television station.

According to a former employee interviewed by local TV broadcaster KOB, the store owner threw out people who were offended by the signs.

"It's been here a long time," Marlon McWilliams told the station. "If you go in there and you offend him, you can't go in there no more.

"He turns lots of people away."

McWilliams said the owner targeted President Barack Obama and other public figures and sold the signs to customers.

One sign said "Kill Obama" in large letters with the word "care" in small print below it.

The contentious postings have met with a firestorm on social media with many calling for a boycott of the store. Others, however, are defending the store owner's right to free speech.

The owner of the store, which is up for sale, could not be reached for comment nor could the realtor handling the sale.

Staff at a hotel and cafe located next to the store declined comment when reached by AFP.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group, meanwhile issued a statement urging the store owner to remove the signs.

"While everyone has the first amendment right to free speech - even offensive speech - we urge the store's owner to remove the sign in the interest of common decency and of our nation's unity at a time of increasing divisions," said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

Islamophobic hate crimes spiked in the US after the launch of President-elect Donald Trump's fiery election campaign.

In early December, two Muslim women working for authorities in New York suffered hate crimes just 36 hours apart, officials said.

A uniformed city transit employee was taken to hospital with injuries to her knee and ankle after being pushed down the stairs at Grand Central Station, the bustling rail hub in the heart of Manhattan, en route to work on Monday.

The station agent was allegedly pushed by a male suspect who called her a "terrorist," said Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

On the same day, another man was held on a $50,000 bail linked to a hate crime charge after an off-duty Muslim police officer was harassed in Brooklyn while out with her 16-year-old son on a Saturday evening, prosecutors said.

Cuomo said a subway train was also found vandalised with swastika graffiti and that Ku Klux Klan fliers and business cards were distributed at two stations on the Long Island Rail Road.

Nearly 900 incidents of hate and intolerance were recorded across the country in the first 10 days after Trump's election, many by assailants apparently emboldened by his victory, an advocacy group reported last week.

Trump's shock 8 November defeat of Hillary Clinton, who was bidding to become America's first female president, was cheered by white supremacists and others fired up by his rhetoric. 

The president-elect has since distanced himself from the white nationalist movement, telling The New York Times: "I disavow the group."

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