Twisting words to incite violence against political critic is deplorable, dangerous

Somali American Congressional Rep. Ilhan Omar (pictured above) became the subject of serious violent threats and Islamophobia following a tweet by President Donald Trump and news coverage by The New York Post. This public villification of this politician should not be tolerated or overlooked (Lorie Shaull/Creative Commons).

The Sept. 11 attacks on the United States are some of the most heart wrenching and dismal moments in the history of our generation, let alone our country. The pain of that day is a universal feeling amongst the American public.

With this fact in mind, it is extremely troubling that President Donald Trump and later The New York Post took this common suffering by the American people and used it to incentivize hate and violence against Somali American Congressional Rep. Ilhan Omar. 

Trump tweeted a video of Omar’s words from a speech at a banquet for a Muslim civil rights organization last month and spliced it between horrifying footage from the 9/11 attacks. According to the video in the tweet, Omar apparently referred to the terrorists who attacked the Twin Towers as “some people who did something.” 

The tweet picked up steam and elicited hate online toward Omar and questions about her American loyalty. One of the reactions came from The New York Post, releasing their Thursday April 11 issue with a picture of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the headline “Rep. Ilhan Omar: 9/11 was ‘some people did something,’ here’s your something.” 

Firstly, because it was a tweet by Trump, Omar’s words were obviously taken out of context. What she really said did not downplay the acts on 9/11 at all.

“For far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it,” Omar said in the speech. “[The Council on American-Islamic Relations] was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange and that I am trying to make myself look pleasant.”

While in context, her words could have been phrased better, the point of her speech was to denounce Islamophobia. One could argue that the point in not referencing the attackers was to further degrade the terrorists rather than downplay what they did. Her intention was to make a point of the Islamophobia that arose after the attacks. 

Regardless of the meaning of her words, they were used by Trump as an attack to perpetuate hate, not to embrace and heal the exact issue she was talking about. For example, on “Fox & Friends,” Brian Kilmeade said, “You have to wonder if she is an American first.” 

There should not be a question as to whether or not an American representative is “American first.” Omar responded to this claim on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Night Show.”

“When people say, you know, that because I’m a Muslim, I’m an immigrant, I’m a refugee, that I can’t have any loyalty to our country,” Omar said. “I took an oath. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. I am as American as everyone else is.” 

The actual problem with this incident is the way in which Omar was villainized for out-of-context words when the whole point of her speech was to stop people from villainizing Muslims in the first place.

It’s one thing for the always-controversial and inappropriate Trump to post something that is obviously edited in his favor, but for The New York Post, a major news source, to hop on-board and target an individual is incredibly dangerous. This is especially true because it bolsters up Trump, who attempts to build his reputation by putting people down, and it villainizes Omar, who has already received multiple death threats because of her background prior to this incident.

This whole instance was a full-on attack; it was meaningless and did not need to be escalated to the extent it was. The hate toward Omar by Trump, The New York Post and other conservatives demonstrate a very harmful trend of perpetuating hate rather than acceptance of minorities, especially Muslim Americans. 

Anyone who attacked Omar for these words and claims that they represent American ideals is sorely mistaken, as this nation was founded on immigrants. We should embrace other cultures, not destroy them. Unfortunately, this is still a lesson people in our country will have to learn time and time again.