Opinion

OPINION: Ilhan Omar Brings Shame To American Muslims

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Qanta Ahmed Author, Land of Invisible Women

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), an American Muslim of Somali origin, shames American Muslims with the anti-Semitism she has brought to Congress.

As a naturalized American and a Muslim woman myself, it was gratifying to see the first Muslim women in American history elected to Congress inaugurated this year.

Now American Congresswomen Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are among the most empowered Muslim women in the world. They enjoy access to the corridors of American power, the mandate of American constituencies that they represent and influence over domestic and international U.S. policy.

Further, as a migrant to the United States, Omar was granted asylum from her Somali origin and rose from refugee to elected politician in 23 years; few other nations can offer a dispossessed refugee such extraordinary opportunity.

But as a Muslim devoted to combatting contemporary anti-Semitism by serving within the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, I am deeply dismayed to see Omar brandished anti-Semitic beliefs almost immediately after assuming office. They are beliefs she has held for years. (Leaders of Minnesota’s Jewish community approached her prior to her election to express deep concern regarding her anti-Semitic leanings).

Omar’s half-hearted apology when faced with appropriate bipartisan rebukes rings hollow. At the least, her ejection from the House Foreign Affairs Committee is warranted — Omar’s approach to Middle East policy, which is contaminated by anti-Semitism, cannot be considered in America’s interest.

Worse, as a Muslim expert in Islamism, I recognize her anti-Semitism as emblematic of deep Islamist sympathies. Political scientists identify anti-Semitism clearly circumscribed within Islamist ideologies and charters to consistently lionize a new Islamist anti-Semitism as a central Islamist tenet contingent on the extinction of the Jewish people. Her affiliation with Islamists must be examined.

Also consistent with overt Islamist sympathies — both Omar and Palestinian American Tlaib have publicly affiliated with BDS — the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement that seeks to expunge all international engagement with Israel, including even academic and medical settings.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree it is correct to label BDS anti-Semitic. In electing these Muslim women, Americans now confront rank Islamist anti-Semitism among the highest offices of political power.

For Muslims in America, we are faced with the realization that Muslim anti-Semites claim to speak for our Islamic faith and our Muslim identity. They invite hostility to our own communities, and more misunderstanding of Islam within America. This is despite the reality that Islam reveres Judaism, the Torah, Moses and the Jewish people as legitimate believers, and Jerusalem as belonging only to the Jews — all documented within the Quran. The Quran’s truths will go unknown in the shadow of Muslim congresswomen spewing anti-Semitism and all Muslims will be thus branded anti-Semites.

The University of Southern California Shoah Foundation defines anti-Semitism as: The negative beliefs and perceptions about Jews that manifest in intellectual physical and rhetorical expression of hatred towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, community institutions and religious facilities. When criticism of Israel demonizes, delegitimizes or holds to a double standard, it is a manifestation of anti-Semitism.”

By singling out the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for criticism, Omar was failing to contextualize all American politics as a liberal democracy, one that by definition permits organizations and groups of individuals to lobby the government to represent interests important to citizens.

Omar also failed to observe Muslim organizations lobby the US government to much greater financial and political impact. This includes lobbying by Saudi Arabia, ($27.3 million in 2017 ) and its long-standing rival Qatar ($24 million up until 2017, with most — $16.3 million — spent in 2017 alone). Both nations dwarf in financial sums any dollars devoted to lobbying by pro-Israeli organizations, including AIPAC, which has an annual outlay of just over $3.5 million.

Concern about Israel and Palestine is not anti-Semitic. Indeed, in the United States a two-state solution is a widely held hope and a legitimate political position to assume, one that I share.

Yet Omar showed no evidence of this in her sentiments and cannot be said to be advocating for Palestinians. Those claiming her freedom of speech was infringed were wrong.

The First Amendment permits Omar’s anti-Semitic speech in the United States even as anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks rise at an alarming rate. They far overshadow attacks on other minorities.

Today, under the increasingly thin guise of an advocacy movement, BDS is no more than a vehicle legitimizing anti-Semitism and the distinctive Islamist ideology of demonization and non-normalization of Israel and dehumanization of Jews, Judaism, Jewry and Israel. BDS’s key advocates honor the indefinite and generational Palestinian right of the return meaning BDS seeks no less than the permanent eradication of Israel.

America’s Muslims must distinguish themselves from these patently anti-Semitic views. If we fail to distance ourselves from these sentiments, we Muslims in the Diaspora will invite animus from our host communities and be personally responsible for the debasement of our own faith by our own hand.

Qanta A. Ahmed (@MissDiagnosis) is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Committee on Combating Contemporary Anti-Semitism Through Testimony at the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.