Democrats Rally Around Congresswoman Omar after Right Wing Attacks

There has been an outpouring of support for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has faced continued attacks and threats from conservatives after statements she made regarding the September 11, 2001 attacks were taken out of context. Omar, one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, found herself in a new controversy after speaking at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) event in Los Angeles on March 23. Omar said that the organization had been founded after 9/11 because it recognized “some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

Members of the Republican party and conservative media pounced on Omar’s remarks and accused her of minimizing the terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people. The New York Post released a scathing cover attacking Omar with a photo of the World Trade Center engulfed in flames as they collapsed with the title, “Here is your something.”

On Friday, April 12, President Donald Trump continued the attacks and posted a tweet reading, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!” imposed above Omar’s comments. Ominous music was played over images of the Twin Towers surrounded in flames. The video has since been viewed more than 10 million times. CAIR spokesman Arsalan Bukhari told The North Star that President Donald Trump took one sentence from Omar’s speech and turned it around to “incite and exploit” people’s feelings. That action led to continued attacks against Omar from the right and the left, he said.

The president’s tweet resulted in an increase in threats, “many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video,” toward the freshman congresswoman, Omar said in a statement on Sunday, April 14.

“Violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists are on the rise in this country and around the world,” Omar said. “We can no longer ignore that they are being encouraged by the occupant of the highest office in the land.” She continued, “Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Sunday that she was ordering US Capitol Police to conduct a “security assessment” to maintain Omar’s safety. “The president’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” Pelosi said in a statement cited by USA Today. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”

Others soon weighed in to defend Omar, with the hashtag #IStandWithIlhan gaining traction on Twitter. The Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA) also issued their support for the Minnesota Democrat by calling for a boycott of the New York Post.

The group, which was founded as a move against the Muslim ban, called on member merchants and bodega owners in New York to not sell New York Post newspapers. “Our stores will not be a platform to spread fear in the streets of NYC,” the group tweeted. In a statement to The North Star, the founders of YAMA said the newspaper’s “Islamophobic rhetoric threatens the safety and well-being of Representative Ilhan Omar, Muslim leaders, and the larger American Muslim community.” “We support free speech, but we will not accept the incitement of violence against Muslims or any other group of Americans,” YAMA President and co-founder Abdul Mubarez said. “We are calling on everyone to join us in boycotting the New York Post.”

Bukhari said YAMA “used their own power” to boycott the newspaper and send a message. “Attacks on Omar are an attack on Muslim Americans or those perceived as Muslim,” he said. “The New York Post can’t subsidize hate.” But more needs to be done, Bukhari told The North Star. He said it was especially important for Democratic leaders to say they stand with Omar, not just respond to Trump’s comments. By standing by their party member, Democratic leaders can show people it is important to believe her.

Some Democrats in Congress have spoken up in support of Omar, while criticizing the president for his remarks, including Massachusetts Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Seth Moulton, Jim McGovern, Joe Kennedy III, New York’s Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and California Senator Kamala Harris.

“Lying about 9/11...disparaging John McCain… ‘bone spurs’... Ilhan Omar and I don’t always agree, but she is more of a patriot than Donald Trump will ever be,” Moulton, a veteran, tweeted on Saturday. Bukhari, who said Omar is working to pass legislation that would help American citizens, urged Americans to judge the congresswoman by her record, character, and values.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.