Ilhan Omar and the American Dream
An 8-year-old girl and her family escaped a raging civil war and called a refugee camp home for 4 years. In 1997 they moved to the United States of America as a survivor of violence. She obtained her degree and credentials from the University of Minneapolis, where she worked as a community educator. Her love for the democratic process and her devotion to justice was cultivated early on in high school. As the years continued to transpire, we can trace her timeline from her advocacy work on a myriad of issues including, support of working families, educational access, environmental protection, and racial equity. She worked all the way up to the white house as the U.S representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district.
This narrative is the very essence of the American dream, however, some will have you believe this one is an exception. This is the story of Ilhan Omar, a Somali-refugee and a venerable congresswoman making history as one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress. A woman derided and called upon by the President to step down from her position based on the specious charge of anti-semitism. According to the current white supremacist administration, Omar is not an embodiment of so-called American values, she is an anomaly in the ideal ivory imbued America. Her religion, skin color and the zeal with which she denounces injustice negates her value as an American leader. Yet her ascendancy within the political sphere is phenomenal. The audaciousness with which she confronts oppressors has ignited a long overdue conversation in American headlines. Quite recently, Omar provoked a great tumult in the media when she made a tweet suggesting that America’s relationship with Israel has a lot to do with its economic relationship by criticizing the imperious lobby, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Shortly thereafter, this prompted President Trump’s remark for Omar’s resignation and his administration’s eagerness to label her anti-semitic. Despite this, Ilhan Omar refuses to be reticent in her views and continues to prevail in the headlines, as she stated in an interview, she is creating “good trouble.”
Unlike the Trump administration, Omar does not speak arbitrarily, nor is she cryptic with facts. In fact, she is quite deliberate. She has successfully ignited conversations on the dubious and taboo topic of the moral bankruptcy of Israel, on a bias, racial equity, and spurious American loyalties. When we dissect the American- Israeli relationship and the direct consequences on Palestinian human rights, it is incomprehensible that it should be defended. Yet history can attest that greed has an insidious way of injecting itself into the veins of society and poisoning its core. America has offered Israel exclusive diplomatic impunity by vetoing almost all resolutions in line with International law, even when Israel has been in direct violation of them. Not to mention the disproportionate amount of foreign aid that has been granted to Israel (the U.S has given $234 billion in foreign aid since 1948), regardless of the fact that Israel has a thriving economy and comprises only .001% of the world population. The United States has also heavily armed the Israeli arsenal with it’s most murderous weapons. They fund the Israeli Iron Dome Defense System, and this requires Israel to purchase additional parts from US weapons manufacturer, Raytheon. This is just an infinitesimal look at the extent of the American- Israeli economic relationship, but the magnitude of its traumatic impact is incalculable. However, this is an indelible circle as Israel continues to fill the pockets of American politicians.
Trump and his cronies claim that Omar’s tweet perpetuates an old stereotype regarding Jews and money, and so she must be anti-semitic. They must be disillusioned on the textbook definition of anti-semitism. This has nothing to with Judaism or religion or even race, it concerns the sanctity of human life and the lack of morals in the bank accounts of politicians. Omar’s claim that “it’s all about the Benjamins” is indisputable. The influence of AIPAC is deeply palpable and the time has come for them to be held liable. AIPAC does not directly donate to politicians but it requires its members to fund certain campaigns. The “Congressional Club” is a group of AIPAC members who donate at least $2,500 per year or $5,000 per two year election cycle to support pro- Israeli candidates for the house and senate. One of the United State’s biggest political donors, AIPAC booster Haim Saban, has donated $3.3million during the 2018 election cycle. AIPAC itself has spent $3 million to lobby the federal government. They also fund annual trips to Israel for senators and representatives. American politicians proudly receive these “donations,” as well as the fact that Israeli brutality on Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem, is carried out by American weapons, paid for by American tax dollars and fully backed by American leadership. To hold Israel accountable for its illegal occupation, America would have to admit its own complicity in this decade’s long genocide. So the next best thing is to render all those who dare to speak out, hate mongering, Jew haters.
Accusing Omar of antisemitism is a cognizant political tactic to detract us from the real issues at hand. By creating this bipartisan debate on whether or not Ilhan Omar is a racist, hate-inciting Muslim, the discourse becomes obscured and distracted. It is noteworthy to consider that Omar constantly criticizes the Saudia Arabian government but there is a lack of allegations calling her Islamophobic. In fact, there is little commentary on her stance regarding Saudia Arabia and the atrocities it continues to commit. This makes manifest the agenda held by the Trump administration and certain politicians. Omar pointed out:
Why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, or fossil fuel industries or big pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?
Trump once again insinuated that Omar was an antisemite when she openly called Stephen Miller a white nationalist. Stephen Miller is the senior advisor for policy for the Trump administration. He devised the Muslim ban and the zero-tolerance policy. He is the architect of the sinister family-separation policy, and he pushed for harsh overhauls of the immigration system- cutting legal immigration by half over the next decade. He just so happens to be Jewish. House Democrat Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin came to Omar’s defense, bringing to light that he too called Stephen Miller a white nationalist but received no backlash. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate in all forms is a festering issue in this country. To incriminate politicians on such a basis to further political agenda is incredibly precarious, and derogatory to those who have to endure true instances of hate. It belittles the rise of racial inequality in today’s society.
It is evident that President Trump’s priorities lie elsewhere. Just hours after Patrick Carlino, a man who made threats to shoot Ilhan Omar in the head was arrested by the FBI, Trump mocked Ilhan Omar during a speech in Las Vegas, speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition, “Special thanks to Rep. Omar of Minnesota,” Trump said, Bloomberg, reports. “Oh, I forgot. She doesn’t like Israel. I forgot. I’m so sorry.” Patrick Carlino reportedly asked one of Omar’s staffers, using profane language, if they work for the “Muslim Brotherhood?” Why are they working for Omar, a terrorist? He also told the FBI that he is a “big fan of Donald Trumps and despises Muslims in the Government.” When someone’s life comes into question because of an individual who claims to be your supporter, ideologies and political affiliations should have been set aside, at least for a moment. Ridicule and aspersions are responses that have no place in a civilized society. However, despite the tirades launched at Omar, her Islam holds her firm. Her reactions are in stark contrast with her colleagues, a gracefulness only evoked by the humble and faithful. Quite simply and profoundly, she tweeted:
My Lord, forgive my people for they do not know.
The current position of the world is pivotal for Muslims. From every emphatic statement to the banalest sigh of relief, it’s all under a microscope. The American dream of achieving success by working hard and sincerely has become conditional. It is not applicable to Muslims or people of color, at least according to some. In the case of Ilhan Omar, every utterance is fastidiously torn apart and analyzed under the questioning lens of her Muslimness. The stature of her intellect holds no bearing in regards to her perspective on policy and law. It must be because she is a Muslim, what else could frame her sentiments? Certainly not her education or humanity. If Omar does not fulfill American values, she exudes the Islamic ideals of facing bestiality unflinching, of speaking the truth irrespective of corporeal ramifications, of refusing to allow injustice to flourish.
A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, “What is the best jihad?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.”