By Shireen Qudosi – The Federalist
When the newly elected Rep. Ilhan Omar kicked off her acceptance speech with “As-Salaam-Alaikum,” I felt a space of belonging. There was a feeling that American Muslims had arrived—but what arrived with them, and which version of Islam was going to be represented through her and fellow Muslim freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib?
As-Salaam-Alaikum means “peace be with you,” but how Omar has carried herself in the weeks that followed has been anything put peaceful. Here’s a quick rundown of her recent actions.
Omar accused American Jews of holding dual loyalty toward Israel. However, there was no word of her loyalty to Islamist supremacism and its gold star prize of advancing the Palestinian cause by decimating the Jewish state’s right to exist.
Omar dehumanized President Trump by saying he’s not really human. Now, Omar has survived a war zone. It takes a distorted mind to have received dehumanization at such scale, then dehumanize another.
Omar had trouble distinguishing between her opinion and a fact when discussing Sen. Lindsey Graham, whom she accused of being compromised with no evidence to support the smear.
Her high frequency of tweets and statements peddling anti-Semitic tropes led to congressional resolutions against anti-Semitism, which Omar made about Islamophobia. With the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ influence, the House resolution mutated from a specific issue to a catch-all that includes Islamophobia — a term that has no tangible meaning and has extended from initially meaning “fear of Islam” to being any perceived criticism toward Islam or Muslims (even if it comes from other Muslims).
Omar frequently backpeddles on her statements, saying she’s been misunderstood. There is a term for this: gaslighting. As fellow Muslim reformer Dr. Zuhdi Jasser pointed out, Omar relies on the excuse of naivety granted her by the Democratic Party.
The gross level of permission given Omar to continue to be hateful and unrepentant is its own form of prejudice that sounds a lot like an inner Democratic monologue that might go like this: ‘The poor little oppressed brown Muslim girl is overwhelmed. We need to help her.”
Yes, we need to help her. We help her by giving her the dignity and respect of being treated as an adult, a peer, and a colleague. If we’re going to be generous, we help Omar by recognizing we’re looking at someone deeply affected by war and powerlessness, and unsteady in wielding power. We help her by holding her accountable.
The reluctance to hold her accountable stems in part from this idea that these are clumsy missteps. Yet none of this is new for Omar, who served in Minnesota’s House of Representatives in 2017, a role she stepped into after being politically active in her community. This is her second public office, and she enters her term with a trail of interviews that show a consistency in provocative and extreme views.
ast interviews offer telltale signs of revulsion toward America and a disturbingly odd defense for terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Omar has also asked for leniency toward ISIS terrorists (even though Minnesota’s Somali community has a radicalization problem), but has been hesitant to commit to defending young Somali girls against female genital mutilation (the Somali community also scores high for ritualistic cutting).
Complicated Effects on American Muslims
For the public at large, Omar isn’t destroying any stereotypes in public office. In fact, so far she reinforces the stereotype that someone like her would believe what someone like her actually appears to believe, and that makes it almost insurmountably more difficult for other American Muslims. Because of her behavior, we will be hated more and trusted less.
Her effects on the American Muslim community are complicated to tease out. Pushing aside her unwavering Islamist allies (and most ardent public supporters), we find a mixed bag of American Muslims who find themselves struggling with her representation as a Muslim.
As one American Muslim pointed out to me in private conversation, “She has the right enemies.” Those enemies include Saudi Arabia, which despite its current favor with the Trump administration, is collectively hated by American Muslims for their unwillingness to sever the head of Wahhabi ideology and terror funding. It’s also hated for its gross human rights abuses and failure to leverage its wealth and power to offer humanitarian assistance to displaced Muslims. Yet Omar is pictured sitting in private meetings with Turkish President (and Islamist dictator) Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Her position on LGBTQIA issues is also divisive. Deeply disapproving of her anti-Semitism, liberal Muslims will align with Omar on her support for gay and trans issues, while traditional or conservative Muslims will further distance themselves. Meanwhile, Muslim reformers and traditionalists all but align on Omar, except on her criticisms of Jews, the state of Israel, or however else she might package those views. On that, traditionalists and fundamentalist Muslims are divided even amongst themselves.
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