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What should have been an inspiring story turned sour due to her own bitter hatred.
At one time, hers was an inspiring story: A young child is plucked from a Kenyan refugee camp four years after having escaped the strife in her home country of Somalia, and she and her family ultimately arrive in the U.S. before her 11th birthday. Instead, the feel-good tale of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has been sullied by her oft-documented anti-Semitism and her seeming ungratefulness for such good fortune. In fact, only her family’s wealth, prominence, and privilege allowed her such an opportunity, all while she rails against the “privilege” of others.
Now 37 years old, Omar’s rapid political rise tells part of the story, while then-candidate Donald Trump told another part on a 2016 campaign visit to Minneapolis: “[We] have seen firsthand the problems with faulty refugee vetting,” he said, “with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state, without your knowledge, without your support or approval.” Among those refugees was Omar, who was just about to be formally elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, having won the Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) primary over a 44-year incumbent legislator who fell victim to the changing demographics in a district that includes a Minneapolis neighborhood known as “Little Mogadishu.”
The area Omar now represents in Congress was formerly the district of Muslim convert Rep. Keith Ellison, yet it also hosts about half of Minnesota’s modest Jewish population. Not surprisingly, then, Omar’s anti-Semitic statements, as well as those expressing support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel were front and center during the campaign to succeed Ellison. While Omar denied backing BDS at a town hall event, Powerline blogger (and Minneapolis attorney) Scott Johnson put it succinctly: “Omar knows precisely what she is doing. She lies baldly and without conscience.” Ultimately, Omar got the DFL endorsement, which was tantamount to victory in her D+26 district.
To play devil’s advocate, perhaps there’s some truth to Omar’s claims that Republicans “spread misinformation about how refugee resettlement works.” She claims the current setup gives states “leverage” over knowing how many refugees they would get. That said, surely Omar doesn’t believe that “ignorance is really pervasive in many parts of this country,” does she? Or is she referring to the Left, which routinely traffics in half-truths and demagoguery?
Regardless, Omar lets the mask slip when, referring to recent pro-life legislation passed in Alabama and Georgia, she says, “If [the Religious Right] cared about or were concerned about children, they would be concerned about the children that are being detained and those that are dying in camps across our borders, or the children who are languishing in hunger and facing homelessness.” Setting aside the swipe at the pro-life movement, wouldn’t it be preferable if those children weren’t put in the position of being detained in the first place?
What Congress now has in Omar is an ardent leftist in a somewhat unique package: the first Somali-American elected to Congress and one of the first two Islamic women to serve. So that’s why, this week, she celebrated the “honor to preside over the House Floor” as speaker pro tempore. Far from any kind of real rebuke for her bile, she’s rewarded.
But her anti-American tendencies are evident when she talks to her political peers. Speaking to Benjamin Wallace-Wells of The New Yorker as part of a glowing article on Omar’s political rise, she told him, “We have values and ideals of prosperity and equality and protecting human dignity. All of these things are part of the American value system.”
So far, so good — until this: “But in actuality we have mass incarceration. We have people who literally are sleeping outside in sub-zero weather. We have all kinds of atrocities. We are caging children at our borders. We have police officers who are shooting unarmed black men. So we have practices that really do not live up to the values and the ideas that are very much part of our DNA.”
Omar goes on to say that her first impressions of America were romanticized, but then reality hit her hard. Writes Wallace-Wells, “It explained the reaction she had when, four years later, her family was accepted into the United States. In the camp, they had been shown films of pristine, quiet American suburbs. Omar arrived in busy, dirty New York in 1992, and asked her father why there was so much trash everywhere and people sleeping outside. He said not to worry, that this was not the end of their trip. ‘I didn’t imagine this was also a land of homeless people,’ she said.”
Ilhan Omar is a very fortunate woman in two respects, even though she doesn’t seem thankful for the first and hasn’t yet realized the blessing of the second. First, as a “feminist with a hijab,” she’s been given opportunities that are denied to millions of women in Islam-dominated nations. But second, since fellow freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is sucking up nearly all the oxygen in the room, Omar’s vile and outlandish statements aren’t part of the public conscience yet. And this is perhaps Omar’s biggest blessing to date.