Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) lambasted critics who have attacked her over comments she made about the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, labeling the rhetoric shared by President Donald Trump and his allies as “vile” and “demented.”
“We are collectively saying your vile attacks, your demented views are not welcome here,” Omar said at a rally on Tuesday. “The thing that upsets the occupant in the White House, his goons in the Republican Party, many of our colleagues in our Democratic party is that, is that they can’t stand, they cannot stand that a refugee, a black woman, an immigrant, a Muslim shows up in Congress thinking she’s equal to them.”
Omar is the first Somali-American, the first naturalized citizen from Africa, the first non-white woman from Minnesota and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.
In recent weeks, far-right conservatives have accused her of having a callous view of 9/11. While speaking at a banquet hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in March, Omar discussed how terrorism had led to a rise in Islamophobia. She talked about how whenever an act of violence was committed by Muslims, the entire community suffered the consequences.
“Here’s the truth. For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” Omar said. “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.”
CAIR was actually founded in 1994, not in 2001. Omar’s spokesman Jeremy Slevin said she misspoke and meant to refer to the fact that the organization had doubled in size after the attacks.
Yet in response, Fox News and other right-wing media outlets slammed her, claiming she was trying to minimize the attacks. Trump even posted a video on his personal Twitter account that featured imagery from 9/11 and used a portion of Omar’s remarks to make her look bad.
“Obviously the first hijab-wearing, American Muslim woman [in Congress] is going to be the first target,” Hassan Shibly, head of CAIR’s Florida chapter, told NPR. “People’s deep-seated hatred for the Muslim community is now being projected onto her.”
The event on Tuesday featured several notable allies of the congresswoman, including civil rights icon Angela Davis and activist Barbara Ransby. Omar said it wasn’t meant to be a “pity party” for herself, but that the organizers wanted a show of strength.
“This is for us to say that if you come after one of us, you come after all of us,” Omar said. “If I survived militia, I certainly can survive these people.”
Omar also said that she would fight against xenophobia and Islamaphobia despite the attacks:
“This is not going to be the country of the xenophobics. This is not going to be the country of White people. This is not going to be the country of the few, this is the country of the many.”