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'Desperate distraction': Republicans target Omar amid calls to denounce Greene

Democrats are pushing to formally rebuke Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has expressed bigoted views and embraced conspiracy theories
Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has voiced opinions that critics say are Islamophobic and antisemitic (AFP/File photo)
Ali Harb

US Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has voiced dismay at the election of Muslim-American officials, endorsed comments calling for the execution of top Democrats and posted an image of herself holding a gun next to photos of progressive lawmakers with the message of promising to go on the "offense against these socialists".

The newly elected House member has also suggested the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon was a hoax and backed the discredited conspiracy theory that a 2018 deadly school shooting in Florida was a false flag operation.

She has blamed "gangs" for all the problems that Black youth face, claimed that a family of prominent Jewish bankers was using space laser beams to spark wildfires in California and voiced support for the QAnon movement.

As Democrats push to rebuke Greene, some Republicans have focused their attention on Ilhan Omar, seeking to strip the Muslim-American congresswoman of her committee assignments instead - and draw attention away from issues in their own caucus.

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Once celebrated by former President Donald Trump as a "future Republican star", Greene's rise to Congress has exposed a sharp schism in Washington as well as the GOP's struggle to move beyond the bigotry, conspiracy theories and nativism that have become the norm in the party over the past four years.

Amid Republican resistance to remove Greene from the Education and Labor, and Budget, committees, Democrats are moving with their own resolution to remove the Georgia congresswoman from the panels. A few Republicans are countering with their own legislation - targeting Omar.

House rules have it that each party chooses its own members for committees and leadership. 

On Wednesday, Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats, who control the chamber, will force a floor vote to condemn Greene, suggesting that an earlier meeting with Republican leader Kevin McCarthy did not yield good results.

"I spoke to Leader McCarthy this morning, and it is clear there is no alternative to holding a Floor vote on the resolution to remove Rep. Greene from her committee assignments," Hoyer said in a statement.

'Desperate distraction'

A Democratic push to oust Greene from influential panels would be a rare occurrence of punishing a member of the opposite party, but it comes amid calls to expel the legislator from Congress altogether, which would require a two-third majority.

In turn, some Republicans, led by Texas's Brian Babin, want to amend the resolution against Greene to make it about Omar - an effort that will inevitably fail in the Democratic-controlled House.

'Stop whitewashing the actions of the bigoted conspiracy theorists, violent insurrectionists and fascist cult followers of Trump. Do better'

- Ilhan Omar

"This is just a desperate distraction that's rooted in racism and Islamophobia by the Republican Party," said Ahmed Bedier a Muslim-American political activist and radio host.

Omar had faced bipartisan outrage and accusations of antisemitism over a tweet suggesting that support for Israel in Congress is driven by the influence of money and lobbies.

A Somali refugee who wears a hijab, Omar has become a frequent target of Republican attacks, who often present her as the face of the Democratic Party, scrutinise her remarks and present them out of context to fuel outrage against the congresswoman.

In fact, a fundraising tweet featuring Omar's photo was posted by Greene, complaining that Democrats were trying to expel her from Congress. 

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Omar, who is not in a leadership position, is not involved in efforts to formally rebuke Greene.

Bedier said Republicans are pointing the finger at Omar as a scare tactic to take the attention away from "their own failure".

"Ilhan embodies and symbolises everything they stand against," Bedier told MEE. "She's a Black woman. She's a refugee. She's an immigrant. She's Muslim, and she wears the hijab."

Progressive groups came to Omar's defence on Wednesday, decrying what they called "false equivalence" between the Muslim-American legislator and Greene.

"Sad attempt to draw equivalencies between Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ilhan Omar is rooted in blatant racism and Islamophobia. This, of course, is exactly what Greene traffics in," Jewish Voice for Peace Action said in a tweet.

Left-wing activists reject the analogy between the extremes of both parties, arguing that while progressive Democrats call for universal health care, strong environmental protections and increasing the minimum wage, far-right Republicans embrace white supremacists and engage in political violence - as demonstrated by the Capitol riots last month.

"It's really sad to see how much of the whataboutism from the media and the Radical Right is rooted in misogyny, Islamophobia and racism," Omar said on Wednesday.

"Stop whitewashing the actions of the bigoted conspiracy theorists, violent insurrectionists and fascist cult followers of Trump. Do better."

In an email to supporters, Omar's campaign accused Republicans of fanning "the flames of hate".

"Instead of holding Taylor Greene accountable for her violent incitement, Republicans are instead trying to strip Ilhan from her committee assignments in Congress," the email said.

"Let's be clear: This resolution to remove Ilhan is rooted in racism, xenophobia, and anti-Muslim bigotry and we must call it out."

A Republican 'reckoning'

A few Republicans have denounced Greene over the past week, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell likening her conspiracy theories to a "cancer" within the party.

In many ways, Greene represents more than herself among Republicans; the battle over her position in the party represents the struggle for the direction the GOP will take post-Trump.

Trump arguably launched his political career with the racist "birther movement" that questioned whether Barack Obama - America's first Black president - was born in the US.

He also spread anti-Muslim bigotry and false narratives, refused to condemn QAnon and embraced many conspiracy theories - including allegations of voter fraud in the November election. 

Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said conspiratorial thinking and anti-Muslim bigotry within the Republican Party did not start with Greene; it even predates Trump.

Ayoub recalled the widespread opposition to a mosque that was being built near the site of the World Trade Center in New York in 2009, and how anti-Muslim activists were legitimised and given media platforms.

"The seeds of hatred and bigotry have existed in this country, but they've been exacerbated with social media, and it's just really taken off the past few years," Ayoub told MEE.

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He added that the riot at the Capitol on 6 January was a turning point that displayed the dangerous ideology of the far right.

While some of the outrage against Greene has been fuelled by some recently unearthed remarks, her views had been known since her campaign began in 2020.

Ayoub said the added attention is also because she represents the far right of the party, which unleashed the violence on the Capitol.

"The Republican Party is dealing with a reckoning right now that's part of their own doing. They've let this ideology and this hatred rise in the ranks within the party, and now you have people like Marjorie Taylor Green... It may lead to a fractured Republican Party," Ayoub told MEE.

Several Muslim-American groups have called for Greene's expulsion, calling her a danger to her Muslim colleagues.

"Each day, we learn more about Greene’s recent history of spreading dangerous conspiracy theories, encouraging violence against public officials and making bigoted statements about Muslims, Jews and other marginalized communities," Muslim Advocates said in a statement last week. 

"This behavior is an embarrassment to the US Congress and presents a real danger to the people of color who have to walk the same halls with Greene each day."

Ayoub also called for terminating Greene's term in Congress. "She doesn't deserve to serve or be a congressional member. She's not right for America. And I would be worried if we start electing people like her, what happens to our community and other communities. We, as a country, can't tolerate her."