Aishah, who asked to be identified only by her first name out of fear for her safety, is being represented by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), which filed a charge to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on Monday.
The 19-year-old, who wears a hijab, a headscarf worn by Muslim women, told CNN she felt singled out for her religious beliefs after seeing “ISIS” — the acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a terrorist group known for its radical beliefs and violence — on her cup. It’s unclear if ISIS was written in all caps on the cup.
“The moment I saw it, I was overwhelmed with a lot of emotions,” Aishah said. “I felt belittled and so humiliated. This is a word that shatters the Muslim reputation all over the world. I cannot believe that in this day and age, something like this can be considered acceptable. It isn’t okay.”
The incident occurred on July 1, at the St. Paul-Midway Target Starbucks, Aishah said. She said she also was wearing a face mask, because of the ongoing pandemic, but said she repeated her name to the barista. She didn’t spell it out.
“When she asked for my name, I slowly repeated it multiple times,” she said. “There is absolutely no way she could have heard it as ISIS. Aishah is not an unknown name and I repeated it multiple times.”
The employee claimed to Aishah at the time that she had not heard the name correctly, according to the discrimination charge, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.
After requesting to speak to the barista’s supervisor, Aishah told CNN her “concerns were dismissed” and that she was given a new drink and a $25 Starbucks gift card before being escorted from the premises by security officers, according to the charge.
The supervisor told Aishah that mistakes sometimes happen with customers’ names, the charge states.
CAIR-MN is calling for the firing of the two Target Starbucks employees involved in the incident.
Aishah said she immediately filed a formal complaint to Target and has yet to receive a response. Target did not immediately respond to CNN’s request regarding Aishah’s formal complaint.
However, in an email statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Target said the retailer wants “everyone who shops with us to feel welcomed, valued and respected and we strictly prohibit discrimination and harassment in any form. 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 a simple clarification,” the spokesperson said. “We’re taking appropriate actions with the team member, including additional training, to ensure this does not occur again.”
Starbucks declined to comment on the incident. A spokesperson for Starbucks told CNN by phone that this Starbucks is located inside a Target, meaning it is entirely run and operated by Target.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN, said labeling someone who is Muslim as “ISIS” is “perhaps the most Islamophobic statement you can make towards a Muslim.”
“The statement that came out from Target is just unfortunate,” Hussein told CNN. “Now we know this is a bigger issue than a simple misunderstanding, because the entire corporation is apologizing for Islamophobia without taking action.”
Hussein said CAIR-MN has also asked Target “to launch another thorough investigation that involves Aishah and to train their employees on Islamophobia and bigotry.”