Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

sign at GOP event

A sign at the "GOP takes the Rotunda" event hosted by West Virginia state legislature earlier this week tied Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, sparking widespread outrage. (Photo: The Young Turks/YouTube/screenshot)

Vile Racism in West Virginia GOP: Rep. Ilhan Omar Likened to al-Qaeda

They hung a poster of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, labeled "'NEVER FORGET'—YOU SAID." Below it they placed a picture of the congresswoman, labeled "I AM PROOF—YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN."

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

Republicans in the West Virginia state legislature held a "GOP takes the Rotunda" event at the state capitol on Friday. As part of this event they hung a poster of the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers, labeled "'NEVER FORGET'—YOU SAID." Below it they placed a picture of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar with the caption "I AM PROOF—YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN."

Rep. Omar is from a Somali refugee family that fled violence and extremism. She spent four years in a camp in Kenya before coming to the United States. She served in the Minnesota state legislature and was elected to Congress from Minneapolis last November. She is one of the two new congresswomen who are Muslim, but the only one to wear a head scarf.

The hanging of the poster outside the Rotunda provoked a commotion. Sergeant-at-Arms Ann Lieberman at some point exclaimed, "All Muslims are terrorists!" 

The West Virginia Democrats were outraged at her use of this hate speech, which resembles hateful assertions made by Islamophobic provocateurs such as Pamela Gellar.

According to WSAZ Charleston, Del. Michael Angelucci, D-Marion, said, "The sergeant of arms of this body had the nerve to say to us 'all Muslims are terrorists' that's beyond shameful and that's beyond freedom of speech."

She resigned under this barrage of criticism.

Then it appears that the Republicans locked the door to the chamber so that Democrats could not enter (perhaps to protect the posters, to which Democrats were strenuously objecting).

Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, the minority whip, kicked the door in, but it seems to have swung around and injured a doorman, who was taken to hospital. Caputo was angry about the poster having been hung.

The West Virginia legislature's House Rules Committee will meet to consider whether Caputo should be censured for injuring the doorkeeper.

Republican delegates defended the poster on free speech grounds.

Democrats say they are fed up with hate speech at the state capitol. Del. Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, recently made a comparison between the LGBTQ community and the Ku Klux Klan.

The Republican poster joins a long history of racist propaganda art. Nazi posters often showed Jews as a danger to the nation. For instance, one shows Stalin pulling his mask away to reveal a skullface with a Star of David on the forehead, implying that Communism was a Jewish plot that leads to the death of the German nation. Another showed a Jew as an embodiment of Satan. It wasn't necessary for a German Jew to have done anything to be tarred by this brush, which sought to characterize all Jews as a Communist fifth column undermining the German society of the burghers.

All Muslims are not responsible for 9/11. In fact, almost no Muslims are responsible for it outside the 12-man al-Qaeda executive council and the 19 hijackers. There are about 3.5 million law-abiding Muslim-Americans, whose ranks include our physicians and engineers and scientists, such that they contribute crucially to society. They are every bit as loyal Americans as the West Virginia Republicans, and apparently many of them are much more loyal to the ideals of the constitution than that state's GOP, who are willing to deny the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights to Muslim-Americans. 

Some African-American families came to the U.S. as Muslims three hundred years ago and up until the slave trade was abolished. While most were stripped of their languages and religion by slaveholders, some later on recovered their ancestral religion. Some anti-Muslim legislators have been in this country a much shorter period of time and have contributed far less to our civilization.

To associate Rep. Omar with 9/11 in this way is absolutely execrable, and in a just world the Republican responsible for that poster would lose his job.

Watch The Young Turks segment on the incident:

© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Utterly Obscene': Just 8 Pfizer and Moderna Investors Became $10 Billion Richer After Omicron Emerged

"Pharma execs and shareholders are making a killing from a crisis they helped to create," said one justice campaigner.

Jon Queally ·

Ilhan Omar Calls Kevin McCarthy 'A Liar and a Coward' for Refusing to Condemn Boebert's Islamophobia

"This is who they are," said the Minnesota Democrat. "And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry."

Jon Queally ·

'Congress Must Act': Bernie Sanders Demands End of Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

"We must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country. And if there aren't 60 votes to do it, and there are not, we must reform the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."

Jon Queally ·

Human Rights Defenders Warn Biden Border Policy 'Quickly Transforming Into Trump 2.0'

Like his predecessor, President Joe Biden now being accused of "using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Jon Queally ·

'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo