Ihlan Omar. In the past two weeks, this name has become a name familiar to many households within the United States. In the event that you have heard of this Congresswoman’s name, chances are you are also aware of the controversy that was indicted by Trump.
Ihlan Omar serves as the first Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota and is also one of few Muslims in Congress. On March 23rd, Omar spoke to the Council on American Islamic Relations on the topic of what challenges American Muslims face within our current societal climate. In her speech, she stated, “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.” Aside from that, she also mentioned one phrase, “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” which was taken as a sound bit by President Trump to Twitter.
Let us keep in mind that words can often time be misconstrued, especially within media outlets. Presidential elections and president nominees often utilize the strategy of sound bits, focusing on one statement instead of the general message and exaggerating the negativity of what was said. To analogize this situation, Trump has basically looked at one specific sentence and failed to see the greater picture of her message. And if he has not failed to see the intentionality behind the message, then he is purposely misconstruing the notion of Omar diminishing the events of 9/11.
Waleed Shahid, the spokesman for a group that had helped to helped elect Omar, commented that “This is a proxy for who counts as an American and who doesn’t, and that is a fight that the Democratic Party needs to be leading on. In the story between Make America Great Again or the new America we are becoming, she is a pivotal character.”
While this situation has proven difficult for the public eye and media to navigate due to the strong backlash on both sides, one factor to consider is motivation. What was Omar’s motivation in her speech and what is Trump’s motivation in the retaliation? As noted by various opinions such as the writers for the NY times, perhaps Trump is utilizing anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric to spur his upcoming 2020 election, as he did for 2016.
As for the responses to this event, most individuals have been treading carefully. For those that are presidential candidates, the dilemma on how exactly to respond remains high. One facet that has come into play is that Ihlan, in the past, has been clear about her opinions on the United States’ relations with Israel. In particular, the democratic politicians that support the U.S. and Israel relations have shown mixed feeling about this scenario.
Our current speaker, Nancy Pelosi released this statement, “The president’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” she said. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.” Regardless of the where you stand in this event, it evident that the controversy may have an impact on the kind of rhetoric that occurs in the new election.