Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday lambasted critics attacking her for 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. “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 ... 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 nonwhite 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 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 misspoke and meant to refer to the fact that the organization had doubled in size after the attacks, her spokesman, Jeremy Slevin, said.
Fox News and other right-wing media outlets slammed her, claiming she was trying to minimize the attacks. Trump 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 Omar, including civil rights icon Angela Davis and activist Barbara Ransby. Omar said it wasn’t meant to be a “pity party” for herself, but 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 continue to fight against xenophobia and Islamaphobia:
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.