A self-storage owner in Palmer, Mass., has sparked serious debate about a controversial message posted outside his business, Baker’s Auto Body and Self-Storage.
The sign, which states, "Muslims are destroying us from within,” spreads hate and “Islamphobia,” according to several Muslim community leaders.
Russell G. Baker, 60, claims he’s not spreading hate, merely speaking his mind. Baker’s comments are posted on the back of a sign that reads, “Obama appointed 2 devout Muslims to Homeland Security.”
Several Muslim leaders have reached out to Baker in hopes to redirect his opinion about Muslims. Many Americans equate all Muslims with terrorists, according to John H. DeBonville, chaplain at American International College in Springfield. DeBonville wants to tell others in the community about the good things happening at the Islamic mosque, and educate the community about the religion.
Local Muslims have been recent targets of hostility. Signs at the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts were vandalized with graffiti and a nasty telephone message was left at the center. Islamic Society board members hope reaching out to Baker and others confused about the religion will teach tolerance and understanding.
Baker, who’s owned the self-storage business since 1972, changes the message on the sign twice a week and keeps a list of everything he’s posted. Most recently, he posted a message about this opposition to the mosque at Ground Zero. Baker told a local newspaper his messages, which are often aimed at President Obama’s actions and policies, haven’t detracted from his business.
Baker’s outspokenness, however, has attracted the attention of law enforcement, he said. Baker claims he’s been visited by Secret Service agents twice. The Palmer Police Department has also fielded angry calls about the signs.