As you’ve most likely heard, Rep. Ilhan Omar gave a speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations after the New Zealand massacre, in which she addressed Islamophobia and the tendency for all Muslims to be blamed for the actions of a few extremists. Here’s the key passage:
Because here’s the truth — here’s the truth: Far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange, that I am going to try to make myself look pleasant. You have to say, “This person is looking at me strange. I am not comfortable with it. I am going to go talk to them and ask them why.” Because that is a right you have.
Right-wing activists latched onto the phrase “some people did something,” stripped it of its context, and dishonestly presented it as though it were Omar’s definitive statement on 9/11. The heinous New York Post cover blared “REP. ILHAN OMAR: 9/11 WAS ‘SOME PEOPLE DID SOMETHING'” — suggesting a very different sentence with a different meaning than the actual quote. As if to illustrate her very point about Islamophobia, they showed a photo of planes hitting the twin towers and accused her of lack of sympathy for the dead. Now she faces a barrage of death threats herself.
A couple thoughts here. First, there’s nothing wrong with what Omar said! She spoke in abstractions in the service of larger logical point about blaming the many for the actions of a few. She was basically saying “x did y, and everyone who looks like x gets blamed for it.” She didn’t need to go into the horrors of y. As Elizabeth Spiers says in her critique of the vile Post cover: “She was not talking to an audience full of children or idiots. Everyone in the room knew what happened on 9/11, and everyone knew it was unspeakably horrible.”
Second, the extremist Rupert Murdoch types creating these manufactured controversies are only part of the problem. Just as bad are people trying position themselves as “centrist” and “reasonable” by arguing that Ilhan did something wrong, but it’s not as bad as the NY Post and Fox News said, or talking about her as a “vector of controversy,” or some such holier-than-thou nonsense. These people are feeding the problem
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