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Trump's Republican allies target Ilhan Omar with 'bad faith' attacks, again

Top Republicans question Omar's commitment to US Constitution after she called for dismantling of 'whole system of oppression'
Ilhan Omar represents everything Trump and his allies irrationally fear, says Robert McCaw of CAIR
As a Black Muslim immigrant woman, Omar represents everything Trump and his allies irrationally fear, says Robert McCaw of CAIR (AFP)
By Ali Harb in Washington

With the renewed Black Lives Matter protests across the United States, many Americans are redefining their views on race relations, with activists and politicians calling for an end to systematic racism at every level of society.

So when Muslim-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Tuesday called for "dismantling the whole system of oppression wherever we find it", the remarks seemed simply to fit within the current national discourse around equality and racism.

But coming from Omar, an outspoken Black legislator who came to the United States as a refugee, the comment activated the outrage button in the ranks of President Donald Trump's Republican Party, with key right-wing legislators springing to denounce the congresswoman.

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn went as far as calling for Omar's resignation.

"Ilhan Omar took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution, not shred it," Blackburn wrote on Twitter. "Omar and her Marxist comrades are a threat to our Democracy. Omar should resign."

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Top House Republicans Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney also condemned the Muslim-American legislator, questioning her commitment to the US Constitution.

"Are you having second thoughts about your oath to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic'...?" Cheney said in a social media post aimed at Omar.

Many of Omar's Democratic colleagues came to the congresswoman's defence by endorsing her remarks.

"My sister [Omar] said it best: We must begin with dismantling the whole system of oppression wherever we find it," Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "Pass it on."

Progressive candidate Jamaal Bowman, who defeated 31-year Democratic incumbent Eliot Engel during the New York primaries last month, said he supported Omar in her call for taking down systemic oppression.

"Why is the GOP and FOX News so outraged?" Bowman said in a Twitter post.

"Because they want Americans to hate Black women, Muslims, and refugees more than the people in power benefitting from a system that causes the majority to suffer."

Omar's comment

Omar had delivered her remarks about systemic racism at a news conference in her hometown of Minneapolis on Tuesday. The Midwestern city was the cradle of the recent protest movement against police brutality after the killing of George Floyd.

Flanked by local leaders and legislators, Omar stressed the need for going beyond police and criminal justice reform to combat racism on all fronts and eliminate racial disparities wherever they are.

"We are not merely fighting to tear down the systems of oppression in the criminal justice system," she said. "We are fighting to tear down systems of oppression that exist in housing, in education, in health care, in employment, in the air we breathe."

The congresswoman went on to cite statistics highlighting economic inequality.

"As long as our economy and political systems prioritise profit, without considering who is profiting, who is being shut out, we will perpetuate this inequality," Omar said. 

'She will stand toe-to-toe with Trump and call him out for every lie and slander and hateful word he says, and he can't silence her. So that's why he attacks her'

- Robert McCaw, CAIR

"We cannot stop at the criminal justice system. We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression wherever we find it."

Robert McCaw, director of the government affairs department at Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the attacks against Omar were made in "bad faith".

"She's right to use the tools of legislation and her position as a US congresswoman to take on systemic racism in the United States," McCaw told MEE. "Anyone who finds that objectionable is standing in the way of a just society."

Since taking the oath of office early in 2019, Omar has become a favourite target for right-wing politicians. The congresswoman's supporters argue that Republicans often take her comments out of context to stir manufactured outrage and use racist and Islamophobic undertones to portray her as a foreigner trying to undermine America.

McCaw said that Omar represents everything Trump and his allies fear irrationally.

"She is an immigrant. She is Black. She is a woman. She is Muslim. She's outspoken. And she's in a position of power," McCaw said of the congresswoman. "She will stand toe-to-toe with Trump and call him out for every lie and slander and hateful word he says, and he can't silence her. So that's why he attacks her."

Linking Omar to Biden

Trump has repeatedly denounced the congresswoman, suggesting that she is not a "loyal" American. 

In July 2019, Trump said the four progressive congresswomen of colour, known as the Squad, including Omar and Tlaib, should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came."

As recently as last month, Trump invoked Omar's national origins in his attacks against her, arguing that if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden were to be elected, the Muslim-American congresswoman would play a prominent role in the administration.

"Omar is going to be very much involved in a Biden government," Trump said at a rally last month. "They will put this hate-filled, America-bashing socialist front and centre in deciding the fate of your family and deciding the fate of your country. I don’t think so. 

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"She would like to make the government of our country just like the country from where she came - Somalia. No government, no safety, no police, no nothing, just anarchy. And now, she's telling us how to run our country. No, thank you."

McCarthy, too, tried to link Biden to Omar this week.  "Yesterday Basement Biden said he wants to 'transform' America. Today a House Democrat said she wants to 'dismantle' our entire system," the key Republican legislator wrote on Twitter.

"The Democrat Party has given up on America. All they want to do is tear it down."

Omar had endorsed Biden's progressive rival, Bernie Sanders, in the Democratic primaries - but subsequently said she would vote for the presumptive party nominee. 

McCaw said Biden's campaign "would benefit from listening to the American Muslim community and its elected leaders".

"Any attack connecting Ilhan to Biden comes from a Republican fear of potentially the next presidential administration listening to the Muslim community and its leadership," he told MEE. 

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