why ilhan omar deserves our love and support

March 6, 2019
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First-term congresswoman Ilhan Omar has made waves across the media for speaking truth to power within a system that hides the truth. She has shown a remarkable ability to act with grace, and stand her ground in the face of attacks that were undoubtedly racist, sexist, and Islamophobic.

This week, the House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, drafted a resolution to condemn Rep. Omar for allegedly anti-Semitic remarks that she never said. Due to massive amounts of support on social media and calls to elected officials, the House postponed the resolution. But this will not be a one-off fight and is indicative of a larger battle.

In this fraught political moment, Ilhan Omar is deserving of our love and here are a few reasons why:

Her existence is resistance. This country was settled by white men and intended to be run by white men. As a hijab-wearing, Black, Muslim refugee woman, Ilhan Omar represents backgrounds that the founding fathers never intended to participate in the political process. Born in Somalia, Ilhan’s family resettled in the US as refugees when she was a teenager. While Ilhan notes that she does not come from the experience of slavery that many of us share, as an African she lives under our shared struggle against racism. Beyond just being a Black woman, her attitude towards the powerful illustrates that she is a friend to everyday people.

She is unafraid to take on power. Ilhan has taken on one of the most touchy issues of our time: the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She is one of only two Congressional representatives to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel in favor of Palestinian human rights. The other is Palestinian-American and fellow Muslim Rashida Tlaib from Detroit. Last month, Ilhan drew condemnation for stating that the Israel lobby group AIPAC exerts an influence on US support for Israel. This statement was denounced as antisemitic even though AIPAC literally asks its members to “commit to giving political contributions in a clearly pro-Israel context to candidates running for [Congress].” Ilhan also issued the strongest statement (and one of the only statements) from Congress against Trump’s interventions in Venezuela. “A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face,” she tweeted in January. “Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region.”

She understands the humility of an apology. Faced with a barrage of attacks for criticizing the Israel lobby, Ilhan did not get defensive, but *unequivocally* apologized for the ways in which her words offended some Jewish people. Yet thousands of Jewish organizations, leaders and individuals have come to her support and rejected the argument that Ilhan’s tweet was antisemitic. In spite of this, Ilhan demonstrated the grace and humility that we ask from those who regularly commit acts of racism, sexism, and homophobia against us. “We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” she wrote. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.” She continued, “At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”

She does not back down. Even after this apology, hater-in-chief Donald Trump dismissed her apology as “lame” and called on her to resign. Ilhan immediately clapped back: “You have trafficked in hate your whole life—against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more. I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?” And in the heat of the attention and uproar around her, Ilhan came for another raggedy, racist white man with power: Elliot Abrams, a neoconservative who oversaw deadly policies of US intervention in Latin America.  Ilhan grilled Abrams: “Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide if you believed they were serving U.S. interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua?” Abrams refused to answer this question.

In the last two months, Ilhan Omar has taken more bold stances against the oppression of people around the world than the Congressional Black Caucus has in its decades of existence. She did not come to play nice, she came to do what we need in this time — to confront the power, hypocrisy, and violence that this country visits on people around the world. She will continue to be attacked for these stances, and she will continue to stand in her truth and raise her voice. It is incredibly rare to have someone like this in the belly of the beast and those of us who care about freedom must do all we can to show her love and support.

Read her full remarks from the event that got her in trouble yourself. Do the Democrats really believe that she hates Jewish people? Or are they afraid that having someone who actually challenges injustice and is supported by the people will threaten their power and privilege?



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