Political drama continues to hit the ceiling as Democrats and Republicans face off on patriotism. Last week, President Donald Trump tweeted out a video placing Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) comments out of context. Omar, referring to the September 11 terrorist attacks as an excuse for continued Islamophobia in America, said “some people did something”. Trump’s video showed graphic footage of 9/11 with those words as if Omar was downplaying the worst tragedy in modern American history. The reality is that neither person is in the right, but Omar’s comments point to a continued trend in the 18 years since 9/11 that continues to infringe on the rights of Muslim-Americans and mask the real threat to our country.
For context, here is what Omar said when speaking to the Council of American-Islamic Relations in California:
“Here’s the truth. Far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR 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, that I am trying to make myself look pleasant. You have to say this person is looking at me strange, I am not comfortable with it, and I am going to talk to them and ask them why. Because that is the right you have.”
Yes, referring to 9/11 in those simple terms certainly downplays the events of that day, but it does not mean she is wrong about the harm done unto the Muslim-American community since then. Omar was speaking only days after the New Zealand mosque shooting that left 50 people dead — the fear was warranted. It also does not warrant an out-of-context video to be produced and weaponized by POTUS to further a political agenda against her, inciting more fear about the people she represents. This is a big ask in today’s politics, but the President should be a purveyor of unity and peace among all Americans.
Islamophobia has plagued our country for long enough. The stereotypical terrorist image needs to subside in the national memory and make room for the true threat to America — domestic terrorism. In the years since 9/11, Homeland Security’s no. 1 mission was to protect the country from terrorism and naturally focused on international terrorism committed by non-state extremists. What they failed to do was gather intelligence on domestic terrorist threats and how to neutralize them. Now, domestic terrorism is actually the biggest threat to America — and law enforcement doesn’t know how to stop it.
Think Charlottesville. Think the Vegas mass shooting. Think of Aurora, Charleston, Pittsburgh, Sandy Hook. All of these acts were committed by Americans against Americans. Yes, there have been attacks with foreign influence since 9/11, and those should be a major focus of law enforcement, but nationally we need to recognize the harms and impacts of domestic terrorism in this country.
Leaving terrorism in the national conscious solely defined by 9/11 not only harms the country as a whole, but also the nearly 3.5 million Muslim-Americans that have the same liberties and basic human rights afforded to them, like any other American citizen. Continuing to perpetuate this harmful stereotype places Muslim-Americans in harm’s way and disfranchises them as a whole. They cannot live a “normal” life without taking precautions to avoid the stereotype, and most of the time still wind up in situations where the stereotype is applied to their daily actions.
Like the Sagebrush has said before, intolerance is a way of the past and it is up to our generation to embrace all types of people as American on equal footing, rather than in a hierarchy. The Islamophobic ideology is another thing that needs to be left in the past as our country progresses as we focus on the true threats to our country. We are all better together.
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