I live in a community that is probably 35% refugees from Middle-Eastern countries. Our neighbors to the right are refugees from first Iraq, then Syria and have become our closest friends. We share meals and holidays, share our cultures, laughter and love. In the days following 9/11, another Iraqi family down the street whose daughters were friends with Miss Goose came to our door asking if there was anything they could do for us and saying how very sorry they were for what had happened. I was so touched. The police had to place patrols in the parking lot of the local mosque 24/7, for the Muslim community began receiving threats. It was a tough time for us all … including our Muslim brothers and sisters.
We’ve come a long way since September 11, 2001. Or have we? Last November, the people of this nation elected three Muslim women to the U.S. House of Representatives, which would seem to indicate that we are moving … have moved … past the bigotry and Islamophobia that seemed in some ways to define the days and weeks after 9/11. However, at least one person in this nation seems to have a problem with those women, one in particular. The person I refer to is Donald Trump, and the newly-elected representative is Ilhan Omar, a representative from the state of Minnesota.It all started back in February when Ms. Omar made a comment criticizing Israel’s occupation of Palestine. House Minority Leader and member of the House Freedom Caucus, Kevin McCarthy, jumped all over her comment, saying it was even worse than Representative Steve King’s support of white supremacy. He claimed her comment was ‘anti-Semitic’ (it was not), and rallied the forces of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) to condemn Ms. Omar. What happened next was a series of back-and-forth that isn’t worth the time and space to relate here, but suffice it to say that Ms. Omar made quite clear that she was not speaking against the Jewish people, but against the state of Israel overstepping its bounds by occupying Palestine. For the record, I agree with her.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA (National Rifle Association), of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”
Then last month, Ms. Omar once again came under fire after giving a speech at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), where she was speaking in response to the two mosque shootings in New Zealand, speaking about the lingering fear directed at Muslims since 9/11, and the rights Muslims have to speak out about being viewed with suspicion.
“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. Many people expect our community to feel like it needs to hide every time something happens. But repeatedly we have shown them that we are not to be bullied, not to be threatened, we are not to be terrorized, we are strong and resilient, and we will always show up to be ourselves because we know we have a right to a dignified existence and a dignified life.”
Many of us knew this would get worse, we finally have a leader, a world leader, in the White House who publicly says ‘Islam hates us,’ who fuels hate against Muslims, who thinks it is okay to speak about a faith and a whole community in a way that is dehumanizing, vilifying and doesn’t understand — or at least makes us want to think he doesn’t understand — the consequences his words might have.”
And once again, the republicans and Donald Trump were off the rails, with one comment I read even referring to CAIR as a ‘terrorist organization’. There is no need for me to repeat all the ignorant comments that came out of the depths of ignorance, but one person took the hate and bigotry a step further, possibly even putting Ms. Omar’s life in danger. That person is Donald Trump.
On Friday, Donald Trump who calls himself a ‘president’, took one small portion of Ms. Omar’s speech out of context and re-tweeted a doctored video that I will not replay here, for it denigrates every citizen of this nation, including Representative Omar, but suffice it to say that it attempts to show her as being dismissive of the lives that were lost on that tragic day. This is the work of a small and feeble mind. When the ‘man’ at the helm of a nation of more than 300 million people resorts to such juvenile tactics, he incites violence by the other small and feeble minds in the nation. Who, really, is the terrorist here? It seems to me the one who calls himself a ‘president’ is as much a terrorist as were Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah.
Predictably, the republicans and conservative media outlets went wild. Ms. Omar has already been the focus of threats, including one by a Trump supporter who was recently arrested. On April 7, Patrick Carlineo Jr., an ardent Trump supporter, was arrested for making violent threats in a phone call to Omar’s office. According to the criminal complaint, on March 21, Carlineo told one of Omar’s staff: “Omar’s a fucking terrorist. I’ll put a bullet in her fucking skull.”
Is this really the sort of nation we want to be? Is this how we want to be viewed as a society? The majority of us are capable of thinking for ourselves, reading or hearing Ms. Omar’s speech and understanding that it was a plea for inclusiveness, a condemnation of bigotry. Sadly, however, there are people in this nation who, rather than use their own minds, prefer to believe what they are told. In truth, we should be able to believe what the president of the country tells us, but under the current regime, it has been proven thousands of times that he lies to suit his own purposes.
I have the utmost respect for Representative Ilhan Omar, and if anything happens to her, her blood will be on the hands of one Donald Trump. It’s time, people, to wake up and oust this abomination who some call ‘president’.