“Here’s your something. 2,977 people dead by terrorism,” Thursday’s boldface headline screamed.
Twitter erupted in outrage, and messages began to fly on Facebook and in WhatsApp groups for Yemeni-Americans in New York expressing fear that the newspaper cover would incite anti-Muslim violence. By Saturday morning, 10 of the most prominent Yemeni bodega owners in New York had agreed to stop selling the paper, and Yemeni taxi drivers began delivering fliers explaining the boycott to other Yemeni-owned stores.
On Sunday, the influential Yemeni American Merchant Association announced a formal boycott of the paper at a news conference outside the News Corp. building in Midtown Manhattan that houses The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.
“We support free speech, but we will not accept the incitement of violence against Muslims,” said Debbie Almontaser, secretary of the board of directors for the merchants association.
The quotation from Omar that appeared on the cover had been pulled from a speech she gave last month at an event for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” said Omar, D-Minn., who was elected in November.
The front page suggesting that Omar had been dismissive of Sept. 11 sent chills through the city’s Muslim-American community, and leaders said they feared the imagery could stoke additional anti-Muslim sentiment.
“What The New York Post is doing is endangering the lives of American Muslims and people of color,” Almontaser said.
The merchants group demanded that the paper apologize to Omar and the Muslim-American community in New York. It also urged the tabloid newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Stephen Lynch, to step down and for companies to pull advertising from the paper.
A spokeswoman for News Corp. declined to comment on the boycott.
News Corp., The New York Post’s parent company, is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News. Murdoch retained control of the media company after selling its former parent company, 21st Century Fox, to the Walt Disney Co. in March.
Yemeni store owners cannot “be in the business of spreading racism and hate,” said Ibraham Qatabi, a Yemeni-American activist from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, who helped organize the boycott.
“We need to stand up for justice and encourage Yemeni-Americans and the broader community in New York to do the same,” Qatabi said.
Yemeni-Americans own between 4,000 and 6,000 of the roughly 10,000 bodegas operating in New York City, according to the merchants association.
Two years ago, Yemeni-owned bodegas and grocery stores closed their shops for a day in protest of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, and thousands of Yemeni-Americans poured into the plaza at Borough Hall in Brooklyn to rally against the ban.
“I was shocked. How a newspaper in New York City would do a front page like that is crazy,” said Mohammed Alsebri, a Yemeni Uber driver in New York. “It makes us less safe, because ignorant people will read these words and attack any Muslim, just like they did after 9/11. We are going to go through that all over again.”
Yemeni-American leaders met Saturday night in Bay Ridge to organize the boycott under the fluorescent lights of the merchants association’s office on Fifth Avenue. Personal stories about anti-Muslim attacks in New York quickly took over the conversation.
Somia Elrowmeim, founder of the Union of Arab Women, said the windows of a mosque’s classroom in Manhattan, where she teaches 200 young Muslim women, were smashed last year.
Abdul Mubarez, president of the merchants association, said he stopped sitting at the back of his mosque after the deadly attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, fearing that his mosque could be next.
“Now almost every person that goes to the mosque, especially on Friday, feels like maybe this mosque is going to be attacked, this is the mentality that people have,” he said.
After receiving a call from Mubarez about the boycott, one bodega owner, Saleh Musa, refused to accept the stacks of New York Posts that were delivered to his shops the next day. He said he has instructed workers at the three bodegas he owns to spread the word to other bodegas nearby.
“If we don’t stop selling it, they are not going to change,” Musa said. “This is the city that welcomes everybody. If we can’t live safely in New York City, where can we live?”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.