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Ilhan Omar Defended by Democrats After Trump Uses 9/11 Video in Attack
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50571"><span class="small">Martin Pengelly and Lois Beckett, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Saturday, 13 April 2019 12:55

Excerpt: "Democrats including leading candidates for the presidential nomination have fiercely condemned Donald Trump and other Republicans' efforts to smear the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, while urging other party leaders to do the same."

Bernie Sanders and Ilhan Omar. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Bernie Sanders and Ilhan Omar. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ilhan Omar Defended by Democrats After Trump Uses 9/11 Video in Attack

By Martin Pengelly and Lois Beckett, Guardian UK

13 April 19

Sanders decries ‘disgusting and dangerous’ attacks while Pelosi hedges response, saying 9/11 must be treated ‘with reverence’

emocrats including leading candidates for the presidential nomination have fiercely condemned Donald Trump and other Republicans’ efforts to smear the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, while urging other party leaders to do the same.

Attacks labeling one of two Muslim women in Congress as unpatriotic are “dangerous” and risk “inciting violence”, prominent progressives said on Friday, after Trump shared a video attacking Omar that included graphic footage of the 9/11 terror attacks.

But on Saturday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi hedged her response, saying “the president shouldn’t use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack” but not mentioning Omar by name.

“The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, and any discussion of it must be done with reverence,” Pelosi wrote, a comment that could be read as a criticism of the Muslim lawmaker as well as the president.

“It is wrong for the president, as commander-in-chief, to fan the flames to make anyone less safe.”

Just last week, a Trump supporter in New York was charged with threatening to kill Omar. On Friday, Trump escalated attacks on Omar, tweeting “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!” with a video edited to suggest Omar was dismissive of the September 11 attacks.

The video used part of a speech last month to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in which Omar discussed the problem of Islamophobia, describing “the discomfort of being a second-class citizen”. After September 11, she said, advocates “recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties”.

Rightwing politicians focused on the line “some people did something” and suggested Omar was dismissing the gravity of 9/11. Dan Crenshaw, a Republican congressman from Texas who as a Navy Seal was seriously injured in Afghanistan, falsely claimed Omar “does not consider [September 11] a terrorist attack on the USA by terrorists”.

Two of the most progressive candidates for the Democratic nomination called on the party and all lawmakers to condemn such attacks. Senator Bernie Sanders called attacks on Omar “disgusting and dangerous” and said Omar would not “back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and neither will we”.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said: “The president is inciting violence against a sitting congresswoman – and an entire group of Americans based on their religion. It’s disgusting. It’s shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.”

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana who has surged in 2020 polls, wrote: “After 9/11 we all said we were changed. That we were stronger and more united. That’s what ‘never forget’ was about. Now, a president uses that dark day to incite his base against a member of Congress, as if for sport. As if we learned nothing that day about the workings of hate.”

After mentioning his own service in the wars arising from 9/11, Buttigieg added: “The president today made America smaller. It is not enough to condemn him; we must model something better. The threats against the life of [Omar] make clear what is at stake if we fail to to do this, and to beat back hate in all all its forms.”

Among other candidates, former Hud secretary Julián Castro said he was “grateful for [Omar’s] courage and leadership and I stand with her - and with others targeted by the president’s anti-Muslim rhetoric”. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke said: “We are stronger than this president’s hatred and Islamophobia. Do not let him drive us apart or make us afraid.”

Rightwing critics have used an edited clip of the “some people did something” comment to falsely claim Omar, a migrant from Somalia, is un-American or not loyal to the US. Fox News and the New York Post, both owned by Rupert Murdoch, have devoted high-profile coverage to the misleading claims. Republican party chair Ronna McDaniel has also attacked the congresswoman.

Omar and others have called such smears a “dangerous incitement” to violence. Rashida Tlaib, the other Muslim American woman in Congress, was the first on Friday to call for Democrats to “speak up”.

“Enough is enough,” she wrote. “No more silence, with NY Post and now Trump taking Ilhan’s words out of context to incite violence toward her, it’s time for more Dems to speak up. Clearly the GOP is fine with this shameful stunt, but we cannot stand by.”

The New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez followed. “[Omar’s] ife is in danger,” she said. “For our colleagues to be silent is to be complicit in the outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress.”

Congressional leadership and some freshmen Democrats have disagreed over how to respond to attacks on Omar. Last month, Omar apologized “unequivocally” after suggesting US support for Israel was fueled by donations from a lobby group, comments that were criticized for invoking antisemitic tropes.

Trump’s tweet on Friday came less than a month after a major white supremacist terror attack targeting Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand. The president’s own comments and falsehoods about September 11 have long attracted criticism.

He has repeated false claims about “thousands and thousands of” Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on the day itself; his business received money meant for small businesses affected by the attack, even though his businesses were not; he has claimed to have helped clear rubble from the attack site, a claim for which evidence does not exist; he has said he watched people jump from the World Trade Center towers from Trump Tower, four miles away, which would not be possible.

Perhaps most famously, in an interview hours after the attack on the World Trade Center, part of attacks in which 2,977 people were killed, Trump described his shock and disbelief. Then he added a comment that left his interviewers “stunned”.

Trump, claimed, falsely, that one of his own buildings had been “the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan”, after the World Trade Center.

“And now it’s the tallest,” he said.

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