Ilhan Omar says attacks on her and Rashida Tlaib are 'designed to silence' Muslim voices

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said President Donald Trump and other right-wing politicians and pundits’ attacks on her and fellow Muslim congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are meant to “silence” Muslims.

“I tell my sister Rashida Tlaib that her and I have the strength to endure any of the mischaracterization or efforts to distort and vilify and mischaracterize our message,” Omar said Tuesday in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

She added that such attacks were “designed to silence, sideline and almost eliminate [the] voice of Muslims from the public discourse.”

Omar and Tlaib, who made history in November as the nation’s first Muslim women elected to Congress, have come under repeated attacks from the president, right-leaning pundits and lawmakers since they took office earlier this year.

Omar in particular, who is black, first faced significant controversy for questioning the U.S. relationship with Israel, which some painted as anti-Semitic.

Last month, Trump tweeted out a misleading video splicing together comments Omar made with footage of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying: “WE WILL NEVER FORGET.” Despite Omar saying she received more death threats after the tweet, Trump continued his assault, saying people should look at her “anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements.”

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Democratic congressional candidate the Midterm elections, Ilhan Omar, speaks to a group of volunteers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar, Democratic congressional candidate, poses for a selfie with a supporter and her son while campaigning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar headshot, as Minnesota State Representative, graphic element on gray
FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2017, file photo, new State Rep. Ilhan Omar is interviewed in her office two days after the 2017 Legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, already the first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature, is jumping into a crowded race for a Minnesota congressional seat. Omar filed Tuesday, June 5, 2018, for the Minneapolis-area seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, State Rep. Ilhan Omar takes the oath of office as the 2017 legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, a Muslim, is the nation's first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature. Religion's role in politics and social policies is in the spotlight heading toward the midterm elections, yet relatively few Americans consider it crucial that a candidate be devoutly religious or share their religious beliefs, according to an AP-NORC national poll conducted Aug. 16-20, 2018. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, left, laughs while speaking with an attendee during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar speaks during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Ilhan Omar attends the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
In this Aug. 16, 2018 photo, Democrat Ilhan Omar, the nation's first Somali-American legislator who won her party's congressional primary in the race, talks during an interview at Peace Coffee in Minneapolis. Just two years ago, the Minnesota Democrat became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature. Now she's likely to become one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Amal Sabrie, Isra Hirsi, Ilhan Omar, Ilwad Hirsi, Ahmed Hirsi, Adnan Hirsi attend the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Ilhan Omar, candidate for State Representative for District 60B in Minnesota, arrives for her victory party on election night, November 8, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar, a refugee from Somalia, is the first Somali-American Muslim woman to hold public office. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 07: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a rally on the East Front of the Capitol with groups including United We Dream, calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday, February 7, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled 'Venezuela at a Crossroads,' on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative for Venezuela, testified. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
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Over the past week, Tlaib, the nation’s first Palestinian American congresswoman, came under similar bad-faith attacks from Trump and other Republicans who attempted to twist a comment she made about the Holocaust.

“When someone like the President tweets something like that, it’s not an attack only on myself, but an attack on all Muslims… women of color… on immigrants and refugees,” Omar said Tuesday of Trump’s misleading tweets about her 9/11 comments. “That message was being used to vilify anyone who shared an identity with me… to say you don’t belong.”  

Earlier on Tuesday, Omar published a joint op-ed in CNN with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who is Jewish, urging the country to confront the threat of white nationalism.

“As a Muslim American and a Jewish American elected to the United States Congress, we can no longer sit silently as terror strikes our communities,” the congresswomen wrote. “We cannot allow those who seek to divide and intimidate us to succeed.”

“Whatever our differences, our two communities, Muslim and Jewish, must come together to confront the twin evils of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic violence,” they added.

The opinion piece pointed to the deadly shooting at a synagogue near San Diego last month, in which the alleged gunman, a white supremacist, released an apparent manifesto gloating about having “European ancestry” and expressing his hatred of Jewish people. The suspect also said he was inspired by theNew Zealand mosque shooting, in which another white supremacist allegedly shot and killed 50 people the previous month.  

Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. have been on the rise in recent years, reaching near-record levels last year, per the Anti-Defamation League. There has also been an increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents in recent years, with a 15 percent increase in hate crimes targeting American Muslims from 2016 to 2017, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The congresswomen slammed Trump for normalizing white nationalism, pointing to his notorious statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  

“We must be united in our diversity,” Omar said Tuesday about her joint op-ed with Schakowsky. “We can’t allow people to [pit] us against one another.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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