Group wants hate crime charges against man who threw pig's foot at Somalis

A civil rights group wants him charged with a hate crime.

A Minnesotan who reportedly threw a pig's foot at a group of Muslims last weekend has been cited with disorderly conduct – but an Islamic civil rights organization thinks that doesn't go far enough. 

The victims, a group of Somalis, were "selling goods" at a farmer's market in Willmar on Saturday morning when the alleged incident happened, the West Central Tribune reported

In response, the Minnesota arm of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) has asked authorities to file hate crime charges against the suspect. 

In a news release, the organization says the man "reportedly cursed Islam's Prophet Muhammad" before throwing the pig's foot. 

CAIR-MN notes pigs and pork are often used to offend "Muslim sensibilities," since their religious beliefs prohibit the eating of pork products.

"If you curse a person's faith and then throw an object clearly designed to offend and intimidate, you should be charged with a hate crime," CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Amir Malik said in the release.

The defendant, 61-year-old Joe Fernke, denied some of the allegations in an interview with the Star Tribune, saying he only placed the pig's foot on the victims' table and "didn't say one word."

He acknowledged to the paper that he shouldn't have done it, but also expressed frustration that Somalis are "taking over the whole damn town."

Anti-muslim incidents on the rise? 

The Willmar incident is only the latest in what CAIR-MN describes as an "unprecedented spike in hate incidents targeting Muslims."

A recent report from the group's Washington, D.C., headquarters says since the November presidential election, there's been a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents nationwide (compared to the year before). 

During that same period, the report said, anti-Muslim hate crimes went up 44 percent.

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