“Send Her (Omar) Back“ vs. “Welcome Home Ilhan”: Who Will Win This Epic Battle? Will Reason & Justice Prevail Over Racism and Islamophobia?
By: John Mason/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Trump “Invitation” to four Congresswomen of Color to Leave the U.S.
In an earlier post, we reported that President Trump had tweeted an “invitation” to four Democratic Congresswomen of color to leave the country. Not mentioning them by name, Trump targeted the left-leaning caucus, self-defined as the “Squad,” of freshmen women of color: representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.). Not only did he tell these Congresswomen essentially to “get lost,” he accused them of coming from “countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world…now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.” Three of the Congresswomen were born in the U.S., one in Somalia, northeast Africa.
Also noted in the earlier post, two of these Congresswomen just happen to be Muslim, giving an Islamophobic tinge to an already xenophobic and racist message. His message is directed at his base of white American nationalists and others who support him regardless of what comes out of his mouth. Republicans in Congress have mostly remained silent in the face of an implicit Trump threat to undermine their reelection possibilities.
Trump picks on Muslim, African Immigrant Congresswoman as the Object of his Ire and a Sop to his Base
At a Trump rally in North Carolina on July 17, his audience picked up on his earlier animus toward Omar by shouting out, “Send her back!” Omar came to the U.S. with her parents as a refugee from war-torn Somalia when she was nine years old. It was all too similar to how Trump had earlier whipped up his presidential campaign rallies in 2016 by inducing fans to attack his opponent, Hilary Clinton, by shouting “Lock her up!” In the case of the “Send her back” chant, he stood by, listening to their chants for many seconds, before returning to his script. He later said he was not pleased with the crowd’s chant, saying he tried to stop it, but the film footage clearly refutes this.
One news headline following the North Carolina rally read: “’ Welcome Home’!—Ilhan Omar returns to Minnesota amid Trump smears.” On returning to her home state, Congresswoman Omar was greeted at the airport by her supporters with loud cheers.
Congresswoman Omar greeted by Chanting Supporters as President Defends Rally-goers Taunts
At about the time Ilhan Omar was being welcomed home by greeters at the airport as she returned to her home state, Trump was describing his rally-goers as “incredible patriots.” His description came on the heels of his attacks on the four Congresswomen and his followers’ chants of “send her back.” Omar continued to draw positive vibes from her supporters.
Trump at first said that he was “not happy” with the chants, but then doubled down and reversed his pretended unhappiness. He had earlier referred to her as “foul-mouthed Omar.” Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany suggested that Trump’s rhetoric “contradicts the strength of America. People of very different nationalities have contributed to the strength of the American people, so these are…comments that very much run counter to this firm impression that I have.” Fellow Democrats of Omar expressed concern over her and the other three Congresswomen’s safety, accusing Trump of endangering their lives.
While at first trying to distance himself from the racist taunts at the North Carolina rally shortly after the Wednesday event, he reversed his position on Friday, defending his supporters and their racist chant against Omar. Trump is quoted as saying, “You know what I’m unhappy with? I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country,” referring to Omar. “I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things.” Finally, Trump indicated that he doesn’t care about his followers’ racism, because “…many people agree” with him. This clearly fits with his assumption that his mostly white followers are critical to his strategy to win a second term in the White House.
Trump’s Racist, Islamophobic attacks unrelated to fighting Anti-Semitism
One of the first things that happened as Omar returned home to Minnesota was that a rabbi from her home turf, Avi Olitzky, compared the North Carolina incident to the time of Adolf Hitler. He noted that “This is a very eerie wave of similar situations in history, be that of Nazi Germany or elsewhere.” This is despite the rabbi’s disagreement with some of Omar’s comments on Israel. Rabbi Olitzky, furthermore, asked top political leaders to stop using “…the Jewish community as a political football.”
So far, there is a standoff between Trump and Omar. He clearly believes he has the upper hand, because he rules, in part, unconstitutionally—by fear and bullying. Omar, on the other hand, has a way of stirring the pot with some of her sharp language which, of course, is her right. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, she indicated she would be Trump’s “nightmare.” Furthermore, Omar elaborated on this premise, pointedly arguing, “When I said I was the president’s nightmare, well you’re watching it now…because his nightmare is seeing a Somali immigrant refugee rise to Congress.”
As the 2020 election heats up, an epic battle between race-baiter Donald Trump and Muslim-immigrant Ilhan Omar has begun. While he is a symbol of authoritarian rule based on fear, she is a symbol of the deep yearnings of most Americans for fairness and justice. This battle appears to be growing and building to what could truly be a crescendo that will reverberate through the social and political fabric of our country.
(References: “Welcome Home Ilhan—Omar returns to Minnesota amid Trump smears,” The Guardian, July 19, 2019; Eric Bradner, “Ilhan Omar at town hall: Trump is
threatened because we are inspiring people to dream,” CNN, July 18, 2019; Aaron Rupar, “’ Incredible patriots’ is the new ‘very fine people’: Trump defends racist chants,”
VOX, July 15, 2019; John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz, “Defenders of a Racist President use Jews as Human Shields, Washington Post, July 19, 2019; John Schlosberg, “Rabbi in Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s district compares Trump’s rally to Nazi Germany,” ABC News, July 18, 2019; Michele Goldberg, “Defenders of a Racist President use Jews as Human Shields, New York Times, July 19, 2019)
John Mason, an anthropologist specializing in Arab culture and its diverse populations, is the author of recently-published LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, 2017, New Academia Publishing.