A St. Paul, Minn., police officer apologized this week after a picture of him wearing a traditional Muslim hijab was circulated around the Internet.
The offending picture of Officer Robert Buth was taken during a Halloween party last year, according to local news outlet Star Tribune. The picture resurfaced on Twitter this past weekend. Buth can be seen wearing a long, red headscarf, lipstick and a Target name tag bearing "a very common Somali name," according to the Tribune.
— Mukhtar Ibrahim (@mukhtaryare) February 4, 2013
Speaking with Iranian-based Shia Islamic news site AhlulBayt New Agency, Minneapolis resident Ramla Bile said the picture had made her feel ill.
"I was literally sick to my stomach," Bile said. "My identity is not a costume, and it's not OK for cultures to be turned into caricatures."
Minnesota has a growing Muslim population, PBS has reported. In recent years, a steady stream of Somali Muslims escaping tumult in their home country has poured into the twin cities region of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
In his apology, Buth, a 13-year veteran assigned the department's K-9 unit and who also works part-time security at a local Target retail store, said that he had taken the picture at a private party. He extended his regrets "to anyone who may have been offended by the recently publicized photo," according to the Twin Cities' Pioneer Press.
In a separate statement, Police Chief Thomas Smith said he had opened his own investigation, but believed Buth's apology as sincere, according to the Star Tribune.
"In his 13-year career with the St. Paul Police Department, Officer Buth has been recognized by our communities for his service. We expect that he will once again draw upon those experiences as he works to rebuild their trust," Smith said.
Target Corp. spokeswoman Molly Snyder told the AhlulBayt News Agency that Target would be conducting its own investigation, as well.
"As a company who stands firmly for inclusivity and diversity, we were appalled by this photo and do not tolerate or condone discrimination or harassment of any sort," Snyder said in a written statement.
Fox reports that Buth has been disciplined twice over his career -- once for a traffic accident and once for punching a student while working as a school resource officer.