These Dems Ain’t Loyal: Why We Can't Let Rep. Ilhan Omar Be The Face Of Hate
The first Black Muslim congresswoman has faced constant backlash since taking office.
This is the weekly column written by Blavity:Politics Senior Editor Kandist Mallett.
In a time where the party should be unifying to defend Omar, it has instead made her more susceptible to further harassment and vilification from those on the right. On Thursday, co-host of The View, Meghan McCain, equated Omar to the “tiki torch person in Charlottesville saying, ‘Jews will not replace us,’” accusing the congresswoman comments on Israel as a "dog whistle" tactic.
Omar has already been made a target by the right. On March 1, she tweeted, "No wonder why I am on the 'Hitlist' of a domestic terrorist and 'Assassinate Ilhan Omar' is written on my local gas stations. Look no further, the GOP's anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them!"
No wonder why I am on the “Hitlist” of a domestic terrorist and “Assassinate Ilhan Omar” is written on my local gas stations.
Look no further, the GOP's anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them! https://t.co/0ouCaloWqh— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 1, 2019
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This false equivocacy between Omar and the white nationalists, whose violent protest ended with the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, is dangerous and manipulative. It is OK for an elected official to speak out against a foreign government — this happens often in our government. Politicians are vocal about not having support for certain countries, but why is it that Israel is the one country that U.S. officials are seemingly obligated to support?
The representative has taken heat for her pro-Palestinian stance, and for questioning powerhouse lobbyist groups like The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). When speaking to at an event at a bookstore in Washington, Omar said, "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA [National Rifle Association], of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?"
She's come under scrutiny for other comments, as well, including one where she said, "It's all about the Benjamins baby," in a retweeted response to Glen Greenwald tweet about Senator Mitch McConnell wanting to punish the congresswoman for her criticism of Israel. The tweet has since been deleted.
Her criticism of the state of Israel and of AIPAC has been labeled by some as anti-Semitic. Coincidentally, this comes in a time where it appears that being Black and speaking out against atrocities being committed by Israel is enough to label someone anti-Semitic. We’ve seen this with Angela Davis, Tamika Mallory and Marc Lamont-Hill.
Politico reported that senior Democrats were working on a resolution that would either indirectly or directly condemn the freshman, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her remarks on Israel. Unfortunately, this was just the latest attack Omar has seen from within her own party for being unapologetically critical of the Israeli occupation.
The final version of the resolution was expanded to include a broader condemnation of hate overall — a switch that was likely influenced by the wave of support Representative Ilhan Omar received. The House voted on Thursday with all Democrats, including Omar who voted in favor of it. While the resolution may have not condemned Omar specifically, articles are written up about it still featured the representative. Senior Democrats had successfully made a Black Muslim woman the face of hate. However, not all Democrats were unified in this effort to condemn Omar.
"This week, Congresswoman Omar and her loved ones have had their humanity threatened, both by the general public and by government officials,” Ayanna Pressley, the first Black woman representative of Massachusetts, wrote a statement. "We should have equity in our outrage.”
Current presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren also issued support to Omar.
Omar is part of a freshman class of congresswomen who are trying to push the Democratic Party to support more progressive issues; the Party that has neglected not only it's more progressive base, but also it's Black constituency in an effort to win over more moderates and "working class whites." These representatives have received nothing but backlash since they've won their office. Many of them are the first to represent a certain identity. While some may hide from their identity in order to fit in better, Omar is a proud Black Muslim woman, who wears a hijab in the halls of Congress — where many continue to slander her faith, incorrectly equating it with terrorism. For instance, Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana suggested on Facebook that we should "kill them all," when referring to "radicalized Muslims."
Those who dare to be "the first" deserve the Party's protection, not to be made easier prey for those on the right. In a time where white nationalism is at an all-time high, let's not make the face of hate and bigotry a Black Muslim woman, who just happened to take a stand against a country who this week alone Palestinian teenager was killed by an Israeli sniper while protesting.