OPINION: The smearing of Ilhan Omar is un-American

Posted on Apr 17 2019 - 5:00am by Suad Patton-Bey

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar has been in the national spotlight since her controversial tweets earlier this year and a speech in which she criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — a pro-Israel lobbyist group.

Last Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted out a doctored clip of Omar speaking at a Council on American-Islamic Relations charity dinner, where she said, “some people did something,” in reference to the Sept. 11 tragedy. The clip was taken out of context and has since sparked not only media controversy but also an uptick in the number of death threats made against Omar and her family.

On Tuesday, Trump said he did not regret posting the video. Why would he when his Islamophobic rants and comments played a huge role in his election, as they will in his re-election?

Considering the president’s disturbing and hateful view of Muslims, his particular “fixation” on Omar is not surprising. In a recent tweet, he refers to Omar’s words as “ungrateful,” which is a term not randomly selected. Black activists and athletes have also been labelled as “ungrateful” simply because they, like Omar, have chosen to stand up to injustice.

“Ungrateful” is the modern day “uppity,” an insult white people have historically jabbed at black people who are smart, confident and successful in standing up to white supremacy or any form of injustice.

Although her unapologetic Muslim identity fuels the right’s hatred for her, we would be fools to ignore the other deeper and older implications of that hatred.

In the same tweet, Trump criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi for increasing security to protect the congresswoman, saying that Pelosi “has lost all control of Congress,” and that although she “is getting nothing done, (she) decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar.” It’s clear that the president doesn’t want Omar to have protection. Either he believes that the threats against her are “fake news,” or he doesn’t mind if someone silences this “ungrateful” woman, permanently.

Some of you may say that is a bit harsh — that the president hasn’t actually called for her death. That’s true, but has he done anything to tone down the rhetoric? Has anyone in the GOP said, “Let’s criticize each other, but let’s draw the line at violence?”

In life, sometimes silence is the only answer you really need. If I don’t reply to your message on a dating app, I’m not into you. If I don’t call out threats on your life, I probably don’t care.

Freedom of expression is a huge part of our Constitution, so let’s uphold that. Right-wing media will talk relentlessly about the hatred and protests conservative speakers experience on campuses. Candace Owens loves to complain about the intolerance she experiences for being black and conservative but has yet to show any sympathy or solidarity when Muslim-American women are attacked for their beliefs.

Some may feel the threats against Omar are “justified” because they claim that she has earned it through her supposed “insolence” and disrespect for “American values.” Fair enough. Explain the vicious death threats made against journalist Noor Tagouri hours before the award-winning reporter was set to give a lecture at Wingate University in North Carolina. The perpetrator threatened not only Tagouri but also the attendees, most of whom were American Muslims.

Maybe what they really mean by “un-American” is, “You’re not like me. Not Republican. Not white. Not Christian. Not pro-life. Therefore, I have the right to inflict harm upon you.” I don’t know about you, but that very concept seems disturbingly un-American to me.

Suad is a senior journalism and Arabic minor from Oxford.