Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar leads lawmakers in calling for US envoy to combat Islamophobia New polls show Democratic race to replace Fudge tightening in Ohio Photos of the Week: Therapy dog, Surfside memorial and Chinese dancers MORE (D-Minn.) on Wednesday reflected on her own painful experience with Islamophobia to push the Biden administration appoint a special envoy to monitor anti-Muslim hate in the U.S. and worldwide.
Omar was joined by other Muslim members of Congress as well as Jewish and Asian-American lawmakers at a press conference to raise awareness about hate speech and assaults on religious and ethnic minorities.
“As a young refugee who barely spoke English, the students mocked me, even going as far as putting chewing gum on my hijab,” Omar recounted during a press conference outside the Capitol.
“At one point I was specifically attacked by a group of teenagers, because I didn’t bare my legs or arms during gym class. And this has followed me even as I ran for public office and represent my district in the United States Congress,” Omar said.
Omar is one of the most highly visible members of Congress. She is one of the first two Muslim women elected to the House in 2018, and was the first to wear a hijab.
The lawmaker came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia when she was a child. She is now well-known as a member of the so-called “squad” of progressives who entered Congress after the 2018 election. The other inaugural members of the squad were Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOmar leads lawmakers in calling for US envoy to combat Islamophobia New polls show Democratic race to replace Fudge tightening in Ohio Webb: Rebellion not revolution MORE (D-Mich.), who is also Muslim, Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHillicon Valley: Biden to appoint Big Tech critic to DOJ antitrust role | House passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks | Bezos returns from flight to space Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage MORE (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOvernight Health Care: Fauci clashes with Paul – again | New York reaches .1B settlement with opioid distributors | Delta variant accounts for 83 percent of US COVID-19 cases Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage Haiti Caucus: Forging path out of crisis will not be quick, but necessary to avoid false ‘democracy’ MORE (D-Mass.)
Omar has drawn intense scrutiny for making remarks critical of Israel, some of which have been criticized as antisemitic. House members in 2019 sought to rebuke Omar by passing a resolution condemning anti-semitic speech related to her remarks about Israel, but that was expanded to condemn all forms of hate speech in an effort to avoid singling out the Muslim lawmaker.
On Wednesday, Omar addressed how she is the frequent target of anti-Muslim hate as a member of Congress.
“Just last month, my office got a call saying ‘Muslims are terrorists. She’s a … N-word’,” the lawmaker said, adding that the individual called one of her staff members a “‘very anti-American Communist piece of shit… and I hope you get what is F-ing coming to you.”
Omar’s experience is just one of 6,000 anti-Muslim incidents documented in 2020, a nine-percent increase since 2019, according to the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights and liberty organization.
“These incidents pain me because they are so familiar,” Omar said.
Nihad Awad, co-founder and executive director of CAIR, said the group has been lobbying for 20 years for the appointment of a special envoy to monitor and combat Islamophobia.
“I’m so glad and hopeful that this might happen under the leadership of Joe BidenJoe BidenKentucky lawmaker faces scrutiny for comparing Fauci to Jonestown cult leader Omar leads lawmakers in calling for US envoy to combat Islamophobia Public charter schools group blasts proposed Democratic cut MORE and with the effort and support of members of Congress, like the ones that we have here,” he said.
Rep. Sarah Jacobs (D-Calif.), who is Jewish, joined Omar in calling for a special envoy for Islamophobia similar to the State Department’s official in charge of monitoring and combating anti-semitism. That post was recently elevated by Congress to the rank of ambassador and the White House has committed to naming a nominee soon.
“We know that Islamophobia and anti-semitism are deeply linked and as a Jewish woman I reject efforts to pit these two against each other. None of us are free, unless we are all free,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs’ district includes the small community of Poway, where in 2019 a gunman opened fire on Jewish congregants at a synagogue during the holiday of Passover, killing one person and injuring three others including a child. On Tuesday, the man pleaded guilty in San Diego Superior Court for the shooting and also for setting fire to a mosque a month before the attack.
“I stand with my Muslim siblings experiencing Islamophobia and violence, here at home and around the globe. We cannot ignore this dramatic and disturbing rise in violence towards Muslims and we also cannot ignore how it’s linked to the rise in white supremacy around the world,” she said.
Rep. Andre CarsonAndré CarsonDem lawmaker calls for hearings on UFOs Sunday shows preview: As delta variant spreads, US leaders raise concerns Ocasio-Cortez leading effort to block arms sale to Israel MORE, one of the three Muslim members of Congress and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also warned about the spread of far-right extremism and white supremacy as contributing to the rise in anti-Muslim hate.
“We are using our platforms in Congress, and certainly those of us who serve on the House Intel Committee, to urge our intelligence community to take this threat much more seriously,” he said.
Lawmakers previously wrote to Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOmar leads lawmakers in calling for US envoy to combat Islamophobia Biden says US has ‘a way to go’ on coronavirus Former Jerusalem mayor lobbies against US opening consulate to Palestinians MORE calling for the envoy to be established.
Omar added that she will be introducing legislation that gives an envoy monitoring and combating Islamophobia the force of law.
“It is time for us as policymakers to treat these problems as interconnected and genuinely global.”
Other members supporting Omar include Reps. Judy ChuJudy May ChuOmar leads lawmakers in calling for US envoy to combat Islamophobia OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps | Manchin to back controversial public lands nominee | White House details environmental justice plan Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps MORE (D-Calif.) and Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHouse passes bill to revive FTC authority to recover money for consumers Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage Cori Bush introduces bill to fund ‘health-centered approach’ to public safety MORE (D-Ill.), who were among the nearly two-dozen Democrats at the press conference.