In recent weeks, Ilhan Omar, a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, elected in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, was once again the target of a Republican colleague’s Islamophobia. The latest episode began when a video surfaced in which Republican representative, Lauren Boebert, proudly described an alleged encounter with Omar, a Muslim who has faced a torrent of racist abuse since her emergence on the political scene.
Boebert claimed that a U.S. Capitol police officer chased after Boebert when she saw her enter a lift alone with Omar, implying that the officer feared that Omar presented some kind of threat. According to her, Boebert reassured the police officer that she was safe since Omar did not have a “backpack,” suggesting that if she did, Omar would have been planning on conducting some kind of terrorist attack.
The story was declared made-up, with Omar clarifying that the event have never occurred. After public backlash, Boebert “apologised” to any Muslims she had offended, and called Omar to discuss the situation. A tense conversation ensued, in which Omar insisted that Boebert publicly apologise to Omar, and retract the fictitious story, both of which she refused to do. Omar hung up on Boebert during the exchange, after which Boebert released a video in which she boasted of having confronted Omar for “anti-American rhetoric.”
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 & shouldn’t be normalized. Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation. https://t.co/S1APT7RbqW
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 26, 2021
Following Boebert’s attack, Omar was once again on the receiving end of a torrent of hate, receiving death threats emboldened by the public attacks on her. In a press conference on Wednesday, she aired one of the voice mails she had received, in which a man using racial and Islamophobic slurs told her that she would “not be living much longer” since the “people are rising up.”
The episode was another reminder of the way in which language espoused by political figures vindicates the violent beliefs of sections of the public, which can have tragic consequences, spurring violence against other civilians.
A report published in 2016 studied the correlation between Islamophobic political rhetoric and actual hate crimes, noting that “a tolerant statement about Muslims by a political leader was accompanied by a sharp decline in hate crime, while a less tolerant announcement was followed by a precipitous increase in both the severity and number of anti-Muslim hate crimes.”
There was reportedly an 87.5% increase in hate crime in days following Trump’s announcement of a ban on Muslims entering the country.
The extremist antics of Republican representatives Boebert and Greene
The implication that Omar presented some kind of threat to the Capitol building was ironic, to say the least, coming from a Representative that faced calls for resignation over her role in inciting violence during the storming of the Capitol earlier this year.
On January 6, the day of the attack, she had delivered a speech decrying the election as fraudulent, and declaring to the house that she has “constituents outside.” She had also tweeted that “today is 1776,” a reference to the American Civil War. She denies however any association with the violence.
Days before, she had also posted a video proudly implying that she had concealed a firearm in her bag, and illegally carried it through Capitol Hill. She has also since suggested to the press that she is carrying a weapon into the Capitol, which is astounding, considering that she claimed that Omar is the one whose bag we must be wary of.
Boebert’s repeated threats to flout the law prohibiting lawmakers from bringing guns into Capitol Hill has led to the installation of metal detectors, which some Republican lawmakers have made a scene out of going through, yelling that their rights are being violated.
Continued insistence on the fraudulent nature of the election has also affected the safety of ordinary Americans. Election workers have been inundated with death threats and harassment, targeted by Trump supporters convinced that they were complicit in the effort to “steal” the election.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) plays a horrific death threat she received following Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-CO) recent Islamophobic attacks on her.
Warning: It's incredibly graphic. pic.twitter.com/5PGODcaJOu
— The Recount (@therecount) November 30, 2021
Boebert has often been associated with another controversial House of Representatives member, Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Both members have been associated with support of conspiracies; Greene, in particular, has championed a range of baffling theories. Greene also has a history of employing violent rhetoric in the past, calling for the execution of Democratic politicians and FBI agents.
Both have also been associated with radical militias, and have actively courted their votes.
In 2019 Boebert attended a rally with them and took photos alongside heavily armed anti-government extremists, members of the Three Percenters. Later, during her election campaign, she tweeted “I am the militia.” She also had militias provide security at her events, amongst other close interactions. The Three Percenters have been designated a terrorist organisation in Canada.
Related articles: OpEd: Lying in America, An Accepted Political Strategy | Guns In America: Is It Freedom?
Greene has also been tied to The Three Percenters, as well as the Oath Keepers, another anti-government armed militia, described as a “paramilitary organization” by the FBI. Members of the militias associated with Boebert and Greene were directly involved in the storming of the Capitol.
Greene has been vocally defending Boebert’s comments in recent days, in another Islamophobic attack, taking to Twitter to accuse Omar of being “bloodthirsty” and a “terrorist sympathiser.” Both labels are unfounded in the case of Omar. Many would argue they suit Greene better, given her extremist associations, her sympathy for the Capitol Hill insurrectionists she defended, and her repeated calls for political violence.
The Republican Party’s response has, according to many, amounted to outright approval of the extremist tendencies and Islamophobia of both Boebert and Greene
The footage of Boebert’s remarks, as well as Islamophobic language she had previously used on the house floor, was met with widespread condemnation from the Democrats, who issued a statement condemning Boebert’s remarks.
The Republican Party, however, has yet to offer any kind of condemnation, which according to many commentators has amounted to tacit approval of the Islamophobia propagated by Boebert and other members of the GOP.
It’s embarrassing that there is any hesitation on this. How can we have different consequences for different kinds of bigotry or incitement?
This should be treated equally and consistently. Incite against a member and you’re stripped. End of story. She refuses to even apologize. https://t.co/3QMQZ1R70l
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 3, 2021
Minority House Leader, (leader of the Republican members of the House of Representatives) Kevin Mcarthy, has developed a reputation of reticence towards holding members of his party to account for extreme behaviour. In fact, he has even been accused by some Republicans of catering to the fringe, far-right members of the party, at the expense of interaction with “moderate” Republicans.
The Republican party as a whole, however, has displayed an unwillingness to confront the racist, radicalism of its “fringe” members, which many have interpreted as an attempt not to alienate GOP voters who respond gleefully to the antics of members like Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Only a handful of Republicans denounced Boebert and Greene’s bigotry. Representative Nancy Mace was dragged into an intense Twitter dispute with Greene after a CNN appearance in which she criticised Bobert’s use of “racist tropes.”
Neither Greene nor Boebert received condemnation from Republican leadership following their public remarks.
In fact, when the House voted earlier this year to strip Greene of her committee assignments, following the public surfacing of her extreme online posts, it was only at the insistence of the Democratic members of the House. Back then, only 11 Republican members joined the 219 Democrats in moving to officially reprimand Greene for her actions.
More recently, in November, the Democratic members of the House moved to censure (a way for the house to publicly disapprove of a member’s conduct) another Republican member, Paul Gosar, after he posted an animated video on Twitter which shows him killing Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Again, only two republicans joined the unanimous Democrats in voting for the censure.
Our office has been subjected to countless death threats in the wake of Rep. Boebert’s anti-Muslim remarks.
To confront anti-Muslim hatred, we must hold those who perpetuate it accountable—to show that we are truly a democracy that respects freedom of religion. pic.twitter.com/w9VQN14Aw4
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) December 3, 2021
The republican party must come to terms with the destructive effect of harbouring members within their rank, who risk pushing the GOP even further into extremist far-right policy aims. They must also contend with the fact that their refusal to publicly call out racist and discriminatory rhetoric further validates the sentiments of violent actors within the country that may go on to harass average Americans.
It may even go on to validate the global network of far-right racist beliefs, affecting innocent people across the world, as demonstrated by the Q-anon obsession that gripped Australians, and Trump’s championing of British far-right activists like Nigel Farage.
It is yet one more example – and an extreme one leading to violent, dangerous behaviour among citizens – of “lying in America”, a strategy widely accepted and systematically pursued by the Republican party, as explained by Professor Annis Pratt in a recent op-ed on Impakter. How long American democracy can resist such extremist attacks remains to be seen.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Protective fencing up at the US Capitol, several days after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building. Photo Credit: Ian Hutchinson.