Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made history the day she was elected; she is the first Somali-American, the first non-white woman from Minnesota, the first naturalized citizen from an African country and one of the first two Muslim women to ever serve in Congress. In the days and months that followed the election, Omar remained in the spotlight — this time amidst controversy. A tweet Omar wrote in 2012, which said that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” resurfaced in January. Critics pointed out that the statement seemed to play on negative tropes of Jews as conspirators or puppeteers, and Omar went on to disavow her initial tweet.
Omar has since found herself in the spotlight repeatedly for more recent tweets and comments that critics have interpreted as anti-Semitic, referencing tropes about Jews and money or Jews having dual loyalty to Israel and to the country in which they live. Among other responses, Omar has written that she has not intended to “offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” while maintaining that her criticism of Israel and support for Palestine are legitimate political stances.
Just last week, the New York Post overlaid Omar’s face on a photo of the 9/11 attacks, in a move that many have called overtly anti-Muslim. President Trump followed up by tweeting an edited video suggesting Omar inappropriately played down the attacks. Joining Worldview to unpack the ongoing controversy surrounding Omar’s politics, public remarks and identity is Sylvia Chan-Malik. Malik is an associate professor of American studies and women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University. She is also the author of Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam.