I suspect that Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, is discovering one of the hard truths of politics: it’s much easier to run for public office than it is to hold public office. Given the fact she’s one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, she would be and is facing much more scrutiny than many other freshmen members of the House.
She particularly needs to be careful about her choice of words. Words do matter, and if she’s right that President Trump’s words about Muslims can be considered dangerous, her words can be considered dangerous, too. As I noted, as one of the first Muslim women in Congress, she’s facing all kinds of scrutiny.
She said something about a painful date in American history whose anniversary is this week. It’s not clear whether she meant to trivialize it, but she sure came off sounding that way.
Omar was speaking to the Council of American Islamic Relations in March about civil rights abuses and bigotry against Muslims. She said that, no matter what Muslims did, they were thought of as terrorists and being un-American. She accused President Donald Trump of inciting violence and bigotry against Muslims.
She then said CAIR was founded following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 because “some people did something,” and Muslims feared losing their civil liberties.
That “something” was the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, where almost 3,000 people died when Islamic extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. and a rural area of Pennsylvania.
More people died in these attacks than died in the attack on Pearl Harbor of Dec. 7, 1941.
To many people, it sounded like Omar was trivializing the events of 9-11, as the day has come to be called. The Trump Administration and the New York Post were particularly scathing in their criticism. Omar has been the target of all kinds of threats. Given how painful this event was and still is, this reaction is completely understandable.
It might have been very different if Omar had said something like, “Evil men claiming to represent Islam killed thousands of innocent people.” She would’ve distanced herself and most Muslims from the terrorists who hurt and killed so many.
I think everyone would’ve appreciated such a comment. As it is, Omar can across as uncaring about 9-11 and, at best, made a fool or herself. That’s something that she and another freshman member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both appear to be very good at.
It’s worth noting Omar is a co-sponsor of HB 1327, which seeks to fully fund the Sept. 11 Victims’ Compensation Fund. It’s also worth noting that more than 600 Muslims, not including the terrorists, were killed on 9-11.
This Wednesday is Patriots Day, the 18th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. As Americans, we need to dedicate ourselves to the principles that made this country great in the first place. We cannot give in to hatred, even as we fight those who attacked us. To give in to hatred would make us as bad as the terrorists.
While we have a long history of bigotry and prejudice in this country, we have just as long a history of attempts at overcoming bigotry and prejudice. As Abraham Lincoln put it, we want to listen to and be touched by the better angels of our nature.
As Americans, we have a duty to respect the liberties of others, even as we stand up for our own liberties and defend ourselves. If there are Muslims who seek to do people harm, impose their laws on others, or demand special privileges for themselves, they should be opposed. In the United States of America, civil law trumps religious law.
On the other hand, if Muslims obey the law and want to be good neighbors, then they should be welcomed. There are people of goodwill from every nation, race and religion, and we can all get along if we treat each other with respect.
Maybe what I’m trying to say is, as an American, I have an attitude of “live and let live.” You go your way and I’ll go mine. However, if you mean me harm, or if you try to tell me what to do, that attitude goes right out the window.
By the way, Omar got the date wrong on CAIR. It was actually founded in 1994 to foster a positive image of Muslims and to encourage them to participate in social and political activism.
Like I said, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez and good at making fools of themselves.