‘I felt belittled’: Muslim woman alleges Starbucks barista wrote ‘ISIS’ on her cup

‘I felt belittled’: Muslim woman alleges Starbucks barista wrote ‘ISIS’ on her cup

Some Minneapolis Target employees seem to share one similarity with the city’s police: discrimination based on identity. A Muslim-American advocacy organization is calling for a Target Starbucks employee and her manager in Minnesota to be fired after a 19-year-old Black Muslim woman alleges the employee purposely wrote “ISIS” on her Starbucks cup, WCOO/CNN reported. When confronted about the alleged action, the employee claimed she had not heard the woman’s name correctly; the manager dismissed the incident as a common mistake and sided with the employee.

The woman identified as Aishah said she and her friend were at a Starbucks located inside a St. Paul, Minnesota, Target when an employee allegedly wrote something on her cup and hid it from view before she could finish giving the employee her name. Upon receiving the drink, Aishah saw “ISIS” written on the cup. “When I first received the drink, I was in shock that in a day and age that something like this could be written,” Aishah said at a news conference Monday. “I felt humiliated. I felt enraged. I felt belittled.” Aishah was sent away without an apology and given a replacement drink and a $25 gift card. In a statement to the Sahan Journal, Target even claimed the young employee “has never heard of ISIS.”

Aishah added that while both companies have faced similar situations in the past, no change has occurred: “This has happened to me and I fear that this will continue to happen to other Muslims because Starbucks and Target do not value Muslims.” ISIS is a common acronym used to refer to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a terrorist organization. Racists and Islamophobes have continuously used the term to refer to Muslims. Last year, a Philadelphia Starbucks came under fire after a Muslim customer named Aziz reported a barista wrote “ISIS” on his drink cups, and Starbucks called it a “regrettable mistake.”

Aishah, a hijab-wearing Black woman, does not feel the term was written by mistake. According to her, the employee did not even ask how to spell her name. “The word that was written on the drink is a word that shatters the Muslim reputation all around the world,” Aishah said.

The alleged incident occurred on July 1. A spokesperson for the Target location said the company immediately apologized to Aishah for the “unfortunate mistake,” However, as of Monday morning, Aishah told reporters that no one from Target had reached out to apologize.

“At Target, we want everyone who shops with us to feel welcomed, valued and respected and we strictly prohibit discrimination and harassment in any form,” the company told Patch in a statement Monday. “We are very sorry for this guest’s experience at our store and immediately apologized to her when she made our store leaders aware of the situation. We have investigated the matter and believe that it was not a deliberate act but an unfortunate mistake that could have been avoided with more clarification. We’re taking appropriate actions with the team member, including additional training, to ensure this does not occur again.” 

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR-MN, is calling for both employees involved in the incident to be fired in addition to training for employees on discrimination. The national Muslim advocacy organization filed discrimination charges with the U.S. Department of Human Rights Monday on the basis of discrimination. “This is not a simple mistake. No one puts the KKK on the cup of somebody’s drink,” Jaylani Hussein said, executive director of CAIR-MN.

“When we talk about this word ISIS and the weight that it has in the Muslim community, unfortunately with Islamophobia — the number one thing discriminatory identified is ‘terrorist,’” Hussein said. “And the fact of the matter here is that using this word for us would be the same as a Black man today, being used the N-word, or anything else that would be offensive.”

During the press conference Monday, Aishah noted that an incident like this not occurring again would be the real justice. Target CEO Brian Cornell said his company was committed to standing against racism in a statement made following the tragic death of George Floyd in May. CAIR is calling on both Cornell and Target to uphold that same commitment against Islamophobia and all forms of hate. “This unfortunate incident is particularly appalling in light of the local and national appeals for racial justice and the ongoing calls for meaningful steps towards lasting equity in the United States of America,” said Alec Shaw, a civil rights attorney for CAIR-MN.

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