3 Intersecting Reasons Ilhan Omar Gets Singled Out: The Intercept

Written by Ann Brown
Ilhan Omar
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., walks to the chamber Thursday, March 7, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington, as the House was preparing to vote on a resolution to speak out against, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy and all the forms that it takes,” an action sparked by remarks from Omar. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It seems every time Rep. Ilhan Omar tweets or opens her mouth she gets attacked. There’s no denying her words have been stinging, but The Intercept has examined why the freshman Democrat Congresswoman has been a target for both Republicans and Democrats.

The denouncements of Omar have been steady.

“Recently, a freshman Democrat in Congress trafficked in repeated anti-Semitic tropes,” Vice President Mike Pence said about Omar’s controversial statements regarding the influence of the pro-Israel lobby. “Anyone who slanders those who support this historic alliance between the United States and Israel should never have a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives.”

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Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also said: “When someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) compared Omar’s recent remarks to President Donald Trump defending neo-Nazis. “When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some ‘very fine people’ among its company, we must call it out. When someone suggests money drives support for Israel, we must call it out,” he said.

This isn’t to say Omar hasn’t defended herself or her words. She has. She recently told reporters: “It’s been interesting to see such a powerful conference of people be so fearful of a freshman member of Congress. So I hope that they figure out a way to not allow me to have a permanent residency in their heads.”

According to Intercept writer Vanessa Taylor, there are three reasons Omar has been singled out.

1. Some people find her triple identity as a Black Muslim woman threatening.

“While analyzing the vitriol directed at Omar, a hijab-wearing Somali refugee, it’s tempting to single out either her Blackness or her Muslim identity as the cause, but the two are inseparable. The conventional, contemporary understanding of Islamophobia tends to revolve around Muslims as a newly racialized group. The Muslim in the popular imagination is a brown, immigrant subject, and attempts to understand anti-Muslim hate are constrained to that context,” Taylor wrote.

There has been anti-Black Islamophobia going all the way back to the slave trade.

Often times Black Muslims are assumed to be inherently anti-Semitic.

“However, it’s an old stereotype that serves to only further — and falsely — pit Muslims and Jews against one another. This was seen in late January when Rep. Lee Zeldin received an anti-Semitic voicemail and called on Omar, and Omar alone, to answer for it,” Taylor wrote.

2. Black women have been under the microscope for generations.

Consider what Angela Davis wrote in “Are Prisons Obsolete?”: “It should also be kept in mind that until the abolition of slavery, the vast majority of Black women were subject to regimes of punishment that differed significantly from those experienced by white women.”

3. Just the mere fact that Omar is Black puts her in the radar.

Taylor reminds us that Meghan McCain’s recent outburst against Omar during  “The View” TV talks show “reflected a pattern of invoking white women’s tears as a process of silencing Black people.”

Taylor later added: “Black women’s public humiliation is an accessible form of entertainment offered to the American public and the result of misogynoir across the world. This history cannot be separated from anti-Black Islamophobia and so drives the elevated reaction to Omar today.”

Omar is being made the center of attention instead of having any real discussion about anti-Semitism and violence against Jewish people. And as Taylor pointed out, “anti-Semitic comments by non-Black, non-Muslim elected officials barely make a blip in the news cycle.”

Taylor concluded: “Omar, instead, was condemned by everybody from the president of the United States — no stranger to anti-Semitic tropes himself — to Democratic leadership. Omar’s case puts on display the United States’s unwavering support for Israel, its violent protege, and the use of anti-Black Islamophobia to carry that message.”

About Ann Brown

Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.