I’m Afraid for Ilhan Omar’s Safety.
To many on the left, seeing a young Muslim refugee who also happened to be a black woman representing her community in Congress was absolutely incredible, and an indication that we may have made some progress as a nation.
To others, her very existence is a threat to the status quo.
Just the sight of her hijab is considered an act of provocation, and has caused many in the right wing to call in to question whether her religion could prevent her from upholding their American “values”. Everyone from FOX News hosts to the President himself have continued to stir up and provoke aggression towards the congresswoman. Just one day after a man called her office and threatened to put a bullet in her skull, the President tweeted an inflammatory video of 9/11 footage with wildly out of context statements that Omar made as the background noise.
The President knows what his base is capable of, and he knew exactly what he was doing.
Tweeting that video was nothing less than a blatant incitement of violence against a sitting member of Congress. It was a wink and a nod, and in his mind a clever, subtle way of asking them: “what are you going to do about this?”
Across the globe, there has been an alarming rise in right wing extremism and terrorism. In an article addressing the subject, John Cassidy of the New Yorker writes:
“Of course, right-wing terrorism is now a very real and deadly threat in many Western countries, the United States included. Last October, Robert Bowers, a forty-six-year-old Pittsburgh man who ranted online about the threats presented by “illegals” and “the overwhelming Jew problem,” allegedly gunned down and killed eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue. Just last month, federal agents arrested Christopher Paul Hasson, a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard who had called for “focussed violence” to “establish a white homeland.” Like Tarrant, Hasson had been inspired by the Norwegian terrorist Breivik, and, according to the prosecutors, he was intending “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”’
I am not as worried about the internet trolls. I’m not as worried about bitter people behind a screen that use social media as their constant preferred outlet. What worries me more is the idea of men like Christopher Hasson who view these things and sit silently stewing in their anger, plotting of ways to neutralize people they perceive as a threat.
America has grown so accustomed to a culture of violence that we tend to minimize these threats. We have grown numb to so much that these actions no longer alarm us, and that’s when aggressors are able to achieve their goals.
Omar has been the subject of right wing, anti-Muslim conspiracy theories since she took office. She has literally sacrificed her safety to serve her community and represent their interests. That reality she faces is something that no white conservative man would ever even have to consider when they chose to run for office. The far right view Omar simply because of her religion as inherently violent, blind to the irony that their hateful rhetoric is the actual violence. While Trump is not the root cause of these mindsets and actions against her he has most certainly emboldened it, and that is something we cannot allow to be normalized.
I cannot help looking up to Ilhan Omar, and admiring her steadfast courage and bravery. I’m sure I’m not alone in that, but at the same time we cannot allow that to blind us from the fact that she should not have to go through everything she continues to go through. She should be able to go to work without worrying about what could happen to her on the way there.