Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Receives More Support, More Death Threats Following Islamophobic Attacks in the Media

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 06: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a House Education and Labor Committee Markup on the H.R. 582 Raise The Wage Act, in the Rayburn House Office Building on March 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo: Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Yemeni American Merchants Association is one of the latest entities to announce that they are standing with Ilhan, joining her Democratic peers along with many Americans who see through the hateful, Islamophobic propaganda that has been aimed at Somali-American Representative Ilhan Omar since she was first voted into office.

On Sunday, YAMA announced that they were rallying the owners of bodegas all across New York City to indefinitely boycott carrying the New York Post following the publication’s inflammatory, anti-Muslim, anti-Omar front page that ran on April 11th. “We support free speech, but we will not accept the incitement of violence against Muslims,” one of YAMA’s directors told the New York Times. “What The New York Post is doing is endangering the lives of American Muslims and people of color.” Nearly half of all bodegas in New York City are Yemeni owned, patronized each morning by people who are looking to pick up the daily news. (YAMA, if you recall, organized bodega owners all around the city to close down after President Trump announced his 2017 Muslim ban.)

The issue in question featured the glaring headline “Here’s your something,” superimposed over an image of the twin towers burning on 9/11. The sub-caption claimed that Omar had spoken dismissively about one of the greatest, most symbolic tragedies in modern American history in a speech to a “Muslim lobbying group.” Omar had in fact been speaking last month to the civil rights group CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, when she explained to her audience, “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.” (Many news organizations pointed out that CAIR had actually been founded in 1994, though there was a significant uptick in Islamophobia following 9/11.)

Omar’s critics immediately weaponized this statement, taking it out of the broader context of her speech, in order to reaffirm their belief that the congresswoman is an anti-American radical. Even President Trump chimed in on Twitter last week, sharing a video juxtaposing Omar’s speech with footage of the attack on the World Trade Center. Omar has since shared that she has received an uptick in death threats. “Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief,” she said in a statement. “We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi has since taken measures to ramp up security to ensure the congresswoman’s safety.

Trump has refused to apologize or remove the Islamophobic post from his feed, instead digging in his heels as he tends to do. The president has attempted to leverage the attention and outrage against Omar for his own political gain, tweeting on Monday, “Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”

Based on the snippet of Omar’s CAIR speech that has been amplified and twisted by her opponents, it would be easy to villify her when you consider their sustained attempts to cast her as an anti-American, dangerous radical. Peter Beinart of The Atlantic, however, argued that her entire speech actually espoused quintessential American ideals. In it, she encouraged the Muslim-American community to participate in civic dialogue and practice the full extent of their citizenship as a way to safeguard the civil rights of not just their own community but of people everywhere. “[While] Omar should have been more explicit in condemning 9/11 and warning about jihadist radicalization in the United States, she forcefully demanded that Muslims call one another to account,” wrote Beinart. “‘It doesn’t matter if that country is being run by my father, my brother, my sister,’ Omar declared in the last section of her speech. ‘I will criticize that country’ if it is ‘violating basic human rights.’”