Rep. Ilhan Omar

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) attends a news conference with newly elected incoming members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at the AFL-CIO building in Washington, D.C. on November 13, 2022.

(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Ilhan Omar Fires Back as McCarthy Confirms She'll Be Kept Off House Committees

"I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim and thinking I should not be," the congresswoman said. "If you look at the comments from Republicans, it's precisely for only that reason."

Progressive U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Wednesday that the only reason why Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is moving to ban her from her House committees is because she is Muslim.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) confirmed Tuesday that Omar (D-Minn.), as well as Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) would be blocked from serving on House committees. The speaker first threatened to strip the trio of their assignments last year, a move that supporters and critics alike viewed as retaliation for Democrats removing GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Arizona's Paul Gosar from their committee seats after Greene's numerous white supremacist remarks and conspiracy theories. Gosar was removed after he shared social media posts depicting the animated assassinations of President Joe Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

"As crude and as cynical as it is for the nativist factions in our government, targeting Muslims is reliably good politics."

Interviewed by HuffPost for an article published Wednesday, Omar—who was a member of the House Foreign Affairs and Labor and Education committees in the 117th Congress—accused McCarthy of being motivated by bigotry.

"I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim and thinking I should not be," she said. "If you look at the comments from Republicans, it's precisely for only that reason."

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have repeatedly made racist and Islamophobic attacks against Omar, the first Somali-American woman elected to Congress, including calling her a terrorist who might try to blow up Congress.

Omar has consistently condemned Israeli crimes in the illegally occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem and in the besieged Gaza Strip. These include the occupation, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and desert Bedouins, the internationally recognized crime of apartheid, the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza invasions, the unlawful colonization of the West Bank by Jewish settlers, and extrajudicial killings such as that of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Omar has also been a vocal critic of the $3 billion in mostly unconditional annual U.S. military aid to Israel.

For these criticisms, Omar has been branded by both Republicans and Democrats as an "antisemite," a tactic often used by Israeli officials and supporters of Israel in a bid to delegitimize condemnation of the country's human rights crimes.

Eight U.S. Jewish groups last month released a statement opposing McCarthy's pledge to keep Omar off any committees.

"As Jewish-American organizations, we oppose Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's pledge to strip Rep. Ilhan Omar of her House Foreign Affairs Committee seat based on false accusations that she is antisemitic or anti-Israel. We may not agree with some of Congresswoman Omar's opinions, but we categorically reject the suggestion that any of her policy positions or statements merit disqualification from her role on the committee," the groups said.

The statement continued:

Leader McCarthy's pledge seems especially exploitative in light of the rampant promotion of antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories by him and his top deputies amid a surge in dangerous right-wing antisemitism. He posted (and later deleted) a tweet charging that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to "buy" an election. His newly elected [House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.)] said the same people "essentially bought control of Congress." Meanwhile, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik [R-N.Y.] has promoted the deadly antisemitic "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory.

Responding to McCarthy's threat, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) tweeted that the speaker "wants to remove [Omar] from her committee while aligning with fascist MAGA extremists."

"This is about Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, and xenophobia," Bowman added. "Ilhan represents everything the Republicans cannot be: leadership, compassion, and integrity."

Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel at Washington, D.C.-based Muslim Advocates, toldHuffPost that "as crude and as cynical as it is for the nativist factions in our government, targeting Muslims is reliably good politics."

"By stripping Rep. Omar of her committees, McCarthy kills two birds with one stone: He attempts to silence an effective, principled voice on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he stokes the ugly culture of anti-Muslim hate for cheap political points," she added.

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