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Ilhan Omar: A New Target in Congress

Ilhan Omar has come under unnecessary fire recently for her statements critiquing American-Israeli ties.

Representative Ilhan Omar

Muslims have come under fire more than ever before under the recent presidential administration. Hate crimes have increased significantly, and visible Muslim women are more prone to attacks. As of 2017, 68 percent of Muslims said they’re worried about Trump, many believing him to be unfriendly towards Muslims, causing the majority of them to be dissatisfied with the direction the country is headed towards. There has also been a 19 percent increase in hate crimes as of 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. It can be concluded that those who are Islamophobic have felt enabled and/or empowered by the language President Trump has continuously used during his campaign, as well as his administration. There is also an increase of racial hate crimes occurring, and with the coming of the Black Lives Matter movement and the use of social media, there has been more visibility of these crimes—which can be either verbal, physical, or both. Black Muslims face the intersection of anti-blackness and Islamophobia, a dual attack against their livelihood and what is happening to Representative Omar is just one of many examples. It is a large display of what happens to Black Muslim women on a daily basis. Whatever spaces they find themselves in, they have to continuously fight to be heard and to be taken seriously, whether it’s Halima Aden on the runway or Ibtihaj Muhammad in the Olympics. I sympathize with Representative Omar for what she is and may continue to deal with during her tenure in office. Because this won’t be the last time she or her stances are questioned and attacked.

Representative Omar and Her Strong Opinions

Ilhan Omar has become the clearest target of hatred for her Democratic and Republican colleagues since her swearing in. Her identity has made her prone to attacks from both political parties, a scapegoat for their inherent Islamophobia and misogynoir. She has recently been condemned for her statements about American-Israeli ties, and while she has both apologized for some of her statements and has stood firm in others, she has been repeatedly attacked, facing death threats and smear campaigns. The representative has been likened to Steve King, a man who stated “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” What he said showed his lack of regard for people of color and those who do not live in a Western country, completely different to what Omar has been trying to express. To conflate her with a man who deems the term “white supremacy” suitable in any context is demeaning and dangerous. When men such as President Trump are explicitly racist or misogynistic, despite the disagreements from the groups he offends, there is little to no accountability placed on him to retract his statements. The same goes for many other white male politicians, who in response to backlash, give a weak apology for their actions and then are able to keep their positions in power. However, Omar tries to express her position pertaining to serious conflicts with Israel, and her comments are instantly inflamed and put under a microscope with an unclear focus. Rather than discussion, there is outrage and calls for her removal from the committees she resides in. These are blatant double standards that hinder growth and understanding in this country. She has also received numerous death threats, has been blamed for the September 11th terrorist attacks, and was called “filth” by Trump campaign advisor, Jeff Ballabon, on Fox Business Monday. Ballabon has yet to be reprimanded for his strong language against Omar by his employer, President Trump, and it will most likely not happen because President Trump has also joined in on the attacks towards Omar.

Why Discussion of American-Israeli Ties Matter

What people need to realize is being critical of Israel is NOT anti-semitism and the two need to stop being conflated. You can be critical of a country without being racist, anti-semitic, etc. If someone were to criticize America and its policies, which they do, that does not make them un-American, they’re simply pointing out wrongdoings they have a right to speak on. There is a long history of Israeli impact on American policies and laws, and Omar was right to point it out. She brought to light of the decades of money and policy exchange between America and Israel, exchanges that have made Israel essentially untouchable on our land. Exchange that has reckoned those who speak out against Israel under fire, without jobs, without the ability to freely express themselves. You are not able to use your free speech if it means speaking out against the Israeli government. Teachers in Texas are unable to work unless they sign a contract stating they won’t speak out against Israel. 26 states currently have anti-boycott legislation being upheld, according to Palestinian Legal. Why should how one feels about a foreign country affect their work and livelihood in the country they reside in? This is the question Omar is asking. Turning it around and making it seem as if what she said was anti-semitic takes away from the necessary critique of American-Israeli ties and their impact on the daily lives of the American people. Condemning and censoring Representative Omar is limiting her First Amendment right to freedom of speech, similar to black women being called aggressive for speaking their minds, or women in general being called too sensitive, or Muslims having their loyalties questioned every single day from civilians and the President of the United States alike. Even with the risk that Representative Omar is now facing for her statements, I applaud her for staying vigilant throughout this whole ordeal. There cannot be change without conversation, this is what Omar has recognized, and I hope that her opponents begin to recognize it as well.

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Hafeezat Bishi
Hafeezat Bishi

Hafeezat Bishi is a Communication and Social Influence student in university. As of now she currently writes on her blog As Told By Hafeezat and posts on her YouTube channel of the same name in order to discuss lifestyle and current events

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Ilhan Omar: A New Target in Congress
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