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Ilhan Omar on Donald Trump: 'I believe he is fascist'

US congresswoman has faced barrage of racist attacks from US president and his supporters this week
Trump supporters chanted 'Send her back!' in reference to Ilhan Omar at rally on 18 July (Reuters)

Ilhan Omar called Donald Trump "fascist" after the US president stood by as his supporters launched into a racist chant against the Democratic congresswoman.

Omar condemned Trump for what happened at the rally in North Carolina a day earlier, when the crowd chanted "Send her back!" after the president's latest tirade against the Somali-born representative from Minnesota.

In his speech he repeated his false claim that Omar supported al-Qaeda, claiming she said “how great” and “how wonderful” the militant group was.

"We have said this president is racist. We have condemned his racist remarks. I believe he is fascist," Omar told reporters on Thursday.

"I want to remind people that this is what this president and his supporters have turned our country [into] - that is supposed to be a country where we allow democratic debate and dissent to take place.

"And so this is not about me. This is about us fighting for what this country truly should be."

Omar is Somali-American and came to the United States as a refugee. She is one of the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress last year.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump - who has faced a barrage of criticism for recent racist comments he made against Omar and some of her Democratic Party colleagues - attempted to distance himself from the chant.

'We have said this president is racist, we have condemned his racist remarks. I believe he is fascist'

- US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar about Donald Trump

"I felt a little bit badly about it," Trump told reporters at the White House, as reported by Reuters.

"I would say that I was not happy with it. I disagreed with it. But again I didn't say that. They did. And I disagreed with it."

But a video widely circulated on social media showed the president standing silently at a podium as his supporters shouted the racist phrase.

He paused for several seconds during the chants, which also came after Trump launched into a tirade against the congresswoman.

"Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down," Trump said at the rally.

"They never have anything good to say. That's why I say: 'Hey, if they don't like it, let them leave. Let them leave'."

Trump earlier this week also tweeted that Omar and other progressive Democrats should "go back" to the "crime-infested places from which they came" - a comment that draws on a historical white supremacist trope against people of colour.

US House rebukes Trump for racist remarks against Tlaib, Omar and others
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While Trump did not name anyone, his comments were interpreted to refer to four congresswomen known as "The Squad": Omar, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

The congresswomen were elected to the US House of Representatives last year and have been some of Trump's most prominent critics.

Tlaib is Palestinian-American, Ocasio-Cortez's parents are from Puerto Rico, and Pressley is the first African-American woman elected from the state of Massachusetts.

The Democratic-controlled House passed a symbolic resolution on Tuesday condemning Trump for his "racist comments" against the lawmakers, which it said "legitimised fear of new Americans and people of colour".

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat whose district includes large Arab and Muslim communities, welcomed the passage of the resolution, condemning Trump for using "hatred and fear" to divide Americans. 

"Throughout the course of our country’s history, language that is xenophobic, racist, sexist, intolerant, prejudiced, or discriminatory has divided and pitted us against each other," Dingell said in a statement.