They’re at it again—Islamophobes on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s case—only this time it’s a Congresswoman
By John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
It was a lie from the beginning—the elevator story. Congresswoman Boebert fabricated a story about Congresswoman Omar that was clearly hate-mongering against Muslims. The story escalated to lots of name-calling between the two and a ratcheting up to Congressional leadership to lay some sanctions on Boebert. That didn’t happen but the anti-Islamic atmosphere it created lingers on.
Congresswoman Boebert accuses Omar of being a “terrorist, black-hearted and evil”
It all started out as a lie. Freshman Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado told a group of her supporters that she and her assistant had encountered Muslim Democratic Representative of Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, on the House elevator. CNN reported on Boebert’s version of the incident: “It was just us three in there and I looked over and I said, well, looky there, it’s the Jihad Squad. She doesn’t have a backpack, she wasn’t dropping it and running so we’re good.”
Boebert also took advantage of the opportunity to disparage Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who is also Muslim. The elevator scene was a fabrication. She was advised by her Republican conference to call Omar and apologize. They spoke and Omar maintains Boebert refused to apologize directly, though later Boebert shifted the conversation, saying, “I have reflected on my previous remarks, now as a strong Christian woman who values faith deeply I never want anything I say to offend someone’s religion.” Figuring turnabout is fair play, she then reversed gears, inviting Omar to apologize for her many sins.
Omar responded to Boebert, stating that she had “a clear pattern for Islamophobic hate speech,” to which the latter’s retort was that Omar was “a full-time propagandist for Hamas—an honorary member of Hamas” and that she has “terrorist sympathizers” in Congress. Omar noted that the issue was spiraling out of control, telling CNN, “It just gets worse…This is unhinged, and she (Boebert) continues to be emboldened by her party. This is their brand and it’s dangerous.”
The dialogue between the two protagonists then got even nastier, when Omar tweeted the following version of her opponent: “Fact, this buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up. Sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout…Anti-Muslim bigotry isn’t funny and shouldn’t be normalized. Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation.”
Islamophobia issue ratchets its way up the Congressional leadership chain
Once House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed public support of Congresswoman Boebert’s refusal to apologize to Congresswoman Omar, Omar lashed out at him. Her response, according to news source Creative Commons, was, “This is who they are…And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Accusing McCarthy of being “a liar and coward” for not condemning Boebert’s Islamophobic comments, Omar made a more general political statement about how American Muslims perceive a larger issue: “Words matter. And words can cause violence. And [Boebert] knows that the language she’s using—the audience that she’s using it for—is going to incite violence against myself and my community.”
Omar, appearing on CNN‘s Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union,’ noted that McCarthy “had shown his true colors as fellow members of Congress have demanded Boebert be censured and stripped of her committee assignments due to her hateful rhetoric.”
Omar went further in condemning the minority leader, averring that “He doesn’t have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his conference.” She was asked why such is the case, to which Omar responded, “Because this is who they are. And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Some House Democrats have advised their leadership to pull Boebert from committee assignments and take “all other appropriate measures” to deal with her continued prejudiced attacks on Omar.
Boebert now pleads for ‘Redemption and Forgiveness’ over Islamophobic attacks on Omar
Congresswoman Boebert’s Christianity suddenly rose to the fore following her attacks on Omar and Muslims in general. Newsweek reported her as saying, “As a Christian woman, redemption, and forgiveness, those are the pillars to my faith. So maybe redemption and forgiveness don’t mean as much to those on the other side of the aisle as they do to me.”
Boebert further noted, “I didn’t apologize to the Muslim community to appease Ilhan Omar or the rest of the Squad [including Congresswomen Ocasio Cortez, Tlaib, Presley, and herself]. I did that for me, and my faith, my constituents, the people I was here to serve, and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone’s religious beliefs.”
Omar’s recent statement about the Boebert’s Islamophobic message has prompted her to issue a formal announcement, insisting the “Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation.” We have undoubtedly not heard the end of this issue and its fallout.
“Another video shows Lauren Boebert suggesting Ilhan Omar was a terrorist,” CNN, 11/30/2023
“Ilhan Omar Calls Kevin McCarthy ‘A Liar and a Coward’ for Refusing to Condemn Boebert,” Creative Commons, 12/5/2021
“Lauren Boebert wants ‘redemption and forgiveness’ over Ilhan Omar remarks,” Newsweek, 12/3/2021
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID, Department of State, and the World Bank in 65 countries.
Check out Arab America’s blog here!