A mannequin that has stood virtually unnoticed in the corner of a Rochester used-car dealer's office for nearly two years is suddenly raising the ire of the Islamic community in southeastern Minnesota and Washington, D.C.
The mannequin in the corner of Steve Lewis' office is dressed in what has been interpreted as ethnic garb - a neck-covering cloth that extends from the back of a red baseball cap and partially covers the back of a white lab technician's jacket.
A belt made of rope and wire holds three empty toilet-paper rolls, made to look like explosives. The mannequin is holding a gas-tank hose.
The mannequin is "clearly offensive and insulting," Rabiah Ahmed, communications coordinator for the Council on American/Islamic Relations, America's leading Islamic civil rights advocacy group, said Monday from Washington.
"These actions do nothing to promote anything positive between cultures and community," said Ahmed, whose group heard complaints from Rochester's Islamic community, which is large enough to have its own mosque in the city of 86,000 people.
Wail Kailani, 31, a Winona State student from Sudan, made the initial complaint and was asked by CAIR to photograph and videotape the mannequin.
"There's a difference," Ahmed said, "between expressing yourself and being bigoted..."