Less than three years after she arrived in Washington as a freshman member of Congress from Minnesota, Rep. Ilhan Omar has become the nation’s most unavoidable political celebrity.
Last week’s debate about her bill to mandate an Islamophobia monitor at the State Department was just the latest evidence of her ability to be the center of attention in any issue in which she involves herself. Even more importantly, she has also demonstrated a unique ability for a relatively low-ranking member of Congress to drag her party and its leadership along no matter where she intends to take them.
But her involvement shouldn’t make it easier for Democrats to virtue signal to their far-left base about concerns of Muslims being targeted for hate. On the contrary, making Omar not merely the face of the bill as its sponsor but the excuse for proposing it as a reaction to Republican attacks on the congresswoman, they’ve illustrated why it’s not merely a bad idea but a way to enable the antisemitism that is an inextricable part of her political brand.
A Pattern of Unsavory Stereotypes About Jews
Omar became embroiled in controversy soon after being sworn in because of her trafficking in antisemitic stereotypes about Israel “hypnotizing the world” and then, infamously, accusing American Jews of buying congressional support for Israel with her “It’s all about the Benjamins” tweet.
That set off a pattern of behavior in which she would apologize but then eventually double down on her original accusations. Omar is a supporter of the antisemitic boycott, divest, sanctions movement that seeks to single out the state of Israel and its supporters for boycotts.
She has also never ceased spewing hateful rhetoric about the Jewish state. For example, last May during a congressional debate, she again smeared Israel, calling it an “apartheid state” and essentially whitewashing the Hamas terrorist group that was launching more than 4,000 rockets and missiles at Israeli towns and cities. No matter what she does or says, Omar always poses as the victim of prejudice even when she’s the one seeking to legitimize prejudice.
When Omar was rightly denounced for her “Benjamins” tweet in early 2019, there was movement inside the Democratic House caucus, initially supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to censure her. But almost immediately, the Congressional Black Caucus and fellow travelers of the Squad pushed back and forced Pelosi to back down, putting forward only an anodyne condemnation of all hate that didn’t even mention Omar.
As an immigrant, non-Caucasian, and the first Muslim in Congress, Omar is the embodiment of the “inclusion” that liberals worship as the highest value in politics. The more Republicans like former President Donald Trump and the pro-Israel community criticized her, the more the leftist press and the forces of pop culture rallied around her, with Omar going on comedy shows as one of her party’s rock stars.
Federal Surveillance of Ethnic Conflict
The most recent instance of this was when Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, trolled Omar about her tacit support for Hamas when she boasted about an elevator confrontation that the Minnesotan claims never happened. When Pelosi, who had already pushed through censures of two Republicans this year, declined to do the same to Boebert, Omar responded by proposing a bill that would place an Islamophobia monitor at the State Department, in much the same way there is already one in place to deal with antisemitism.
The point of the bill isn’t so much to get American diplomats to pay attention to anti-Muslim prejudice as it is to treat the issue as morally equivalent to antisemitism. That is not to deny there is anti-Muslim prejudice. In China, the ethnic Uyghurs are Muslims subject to brutal persecution by the Communist government in what amounts to genocide. The same is true for the Rohingya in Myanmar, who are Muslims.
Yet the more prevalent pattern of bias is that of Muslims persecuting non-Muslims, as religious minorities, principally Christians, are subjected to brutal prejudice and oppression in Islamic countries. That was a major concern of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Yet now that Democrats are back in charge at Foggy Bottom, the spin from the State Department is that the Trump administration cared too much about the issue rather than more generic human-rights causes.
The real reason to oppose this attempt to treat Islamophobia in the same way the government is supposed to counter antisemitism is that those who have done the most to champion this cause are primarily interested in using the former to bury the latter.
Terrorists Use ‘Islamophobia’ To Fundraise and Bully
Along with Omar and “The Squad,” the leading voice against Islamophobia in this country is the Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR). Although it poses as a civil-rights group, CAIR began life as the political front for an effort to raise money for Hamas terrorists via the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation in the 1990s.
Since then, it has worked assiduously to promote the notion that American Muslims are under siege from prejudice in the United States, especially by promoting the myth that there was a post-9/11 backlash against Islam. That claim always lacked statistical support and was contradicted by the fact that every year in the past two decades, the FBI reported that the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes was dwarfed by the far larger total of antisemitic hate crimes.
Just as significantly, CAIR’s leaders are a font of antisemitic prejudice. That was recently illustrated by a speech by Zahra Billoo, the executive director of its San Francisco branch. She advised Muslims to avoid engaging in interfaith dialogue with “Zionist synagogues,” Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League, and other Jewish institutions because they were “enemies” and responsible for a conspiracy behind Islamophobia, police shootings of African-Americans, and enforcement of immigration laws.
Billoo, whose remarks were backed up by the group, is no outlier in making such charges. The thrust of CAIR advocacy has always been to demonize Israel and its supporters, and to treat any pushback against these slurs as, you guessed it, Islamophobia.
During the course of the debate about Omar’s bill, one Republican critic, noting that Omar is a supporter of CAIR, said she was “affiliated with” terrorism. At the insistence of Democrats, his remarks were struck from the record and he was prevented from speaking for the rest of the evening. While his language was, in a technical sense, unparliamentary, the attempt to portray it as prejudicial was a way to avoid taking a hard look at what CAIR and Omar stand for.
The closer you examine the campaign against Islamophobia that has become fashionable on the political left, the easier it is to see that it is a form of gaslighting. In this way, hate groups like the pro-BDS Students for Justice in Palestine or CAIR are not only given a pass for their prejudice but are also assisted in their attempts to dismiss any discussion about holding them accountable for their Jew-hatred.
It’s a tactic designed to shift the narrative about religious prejudice from that of Muslim hate to one about the haters like Omar really being victims. The State Department doesn’t need a new office whose real purpose will be to defend antisemites rather than countering religious persecution.