Presidential and right-wing media attacks on Ilhan Omar are dangerous and unfounded

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is seen during an even on Capitol Hill in January. Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges.

Earlier this month, the American right decided to attack one of their new go-to scapegoats, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN). After she made a speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Rep. Ilhan Omar was targeted for stating that “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;” while 9/11 was in fact an event where some people did something, many proponents on the right claimed this statement minimizes 9/11.

The fact of the matter is that the quote was taken from a speech that had to do with the civil rights of Muslim Americans being infringed post-9/11, not a speech about the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks. There are legitimate points to be made on how 9/11 has impacted all Americans’ rights to privacy and certain civil liberties, and it is unnecessary for one discussing the attack in that framework to always preference with how horrible and tragic it was. Despite this, the American right has latched on to these remarks like a leech. The President went as far as to tweet “NEVER FORGET,” posting a video with dramatized music that cross-cuts between Rep. Omar’s remarks in her speech with footage of the attacks.

While it may be an effective political tool, it is extremely inflammatory in nature. Coupled with other attacks from the right, such as Fox News host Jeanine Pirro suggesting that, because Rep. Omar wears a hijab, she is an advocate for Sharia law and not the Constitution. Furthermore, right-wing Twitter personality and Koch-funded propagandist Charlie Kirk, who cost the University of Connecticut over $24,000 in order to host his event, often remarks that Ilhan wants to “bring back ISIS” and is an anti-semite. All of these criticisms are unfounded and are simply meant to stoke fear into the American people and make the Congresswoman a target for far-right loonies across the country.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) claims, “When someone calls out a public official for things they said, it is not endangering their life or inciting violence”. While normally this is true, the right purposely making false statements and propaganda to portray a tie between Rep. Omar and Islamic extremism actually does incite violence and endanger her life. After quickly glancing through Tweets mentioning Rep. Omar, I was able to find one that said, “This why we have the #2A @Ilhan‬. We will NEVER submit to Muhammad or any other false god,” which was placed underneath a photo of the Representative with a fake quote attached. I don’t know how to take this quote as anything other than a threat, and that was just the first one I found. It is important to remember that words to have power, and such baseless attacks can most definitely lead to death threats and actual acts of violence. ‬

Furthermore, it is absolutely absurd that Republicans such as Dan Crenshaw criticize Rep. Omar for minimizing 9/11, while not supporting the reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (which covers medical costs for first responders and victims of the attacks), a bill which Rep. Omar herself supports.

It is clear that Rep. Omar takes 9/11 seriously, as she is supporting a bill which uplifts those impacted by the tragedy. Overall, Republicans need to do more than just give lip service to supporting troops and first responders, and actually vote for policies that will have a tangible impact in improving their lives.


Cameron Cantelmo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at cameron.cantelmo@uconn.edu.