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Ilhan Omar vs. Miss Iraq: The Feud

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Miss Iraq Sarah Idan takes a selfie with Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman (Photo: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images); Inset: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Miss Iraq Sarah Idan takes a selfie with Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman (Photo: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images); Inset: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The feud between freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Miss Iraq (Sarah Idan) challenges the long-held media and political bias that Omar is representative of the American Muslim community. The conflict between the two Muslim women arose when Idan called out Omar in a radio interview.

Speaking with conservative host Sara Carter earlier this month, Miss Iraq shared:

“Omar does not represent me as a Muslim, [she] does not represent millions of Muslims in the Middle East. You know, like in Arab countries we call her the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Miss Iraq came into the global spotlight after a selfie she took with Miss Israel went viral, trigging immense backlash against Miss Iraq from Muslims who still do not see Israelis as human beings. The anti-Semitic hate Miss Iraq received is the same rhetoric we see coming from Ilhan Omar.

Equally frustrated with having Ilhan Omar pushed onto us as representative of the American Muslim identity, Idan drew strong support from powerful Muslim voices against Islamism, including media analyst and TV anchor Dalia Al-Aqidi, an Iraqi journalist based in the U.S.

Aqidi challenged Ilhan Omar to a direct interview, one Muslim immigrant woman to another.

As a Muslim woman and an American, I stand with Sarah Idan and Dalia Al-Aqidi: Ilhan Omar does not represent American Muslims.

Recently, a clash between progressive Islam and Islamists occurred against during the first annual Muslim Caucus, where Ilhan Omar attacked progressive Muslim leader, Ani Zonneveld, who runs circles around Omar in terms of accomplishment and human rights initiatives.

As I pointed out in an article published in The Federalist Ilhan Omar represents two things, the district that elected her and Islamists:

It is not possible to peg Omar as representative of a collective Muslim identity. However, she checks off the boxes for Islamist representation, and that comes down to three key factors:

First: Vitriolic hate for Israel, while blurring or tolerating gross anti-Semitism alongside sloppy scrutiny of Israeli policies.

Second: Absolute disinterest in good faith engagement and dialogue with non-Islamist personalities, particularly Muslim reformers.

Third: Using Western political channels to advance the agenda of Islamic supremacism, where Islam is narrowly defined by a small segment of a Muslim demographic. This demographic drives the public narrative through a visible Muslim identity, which must currently be seen as oppressed or victimized to gain additional public favor and tolerance that then reinforces the underlying supremacism.

A 2011 Gallup poll on American Muslims confirmed that most Americans do not identify with Islamists. However, authoritarian flare-ups against moderate Muslims keep continuing. They’re now happening at the hands of elected officials like Ilhan Omar, which is exactly the message Miss Iraq brings to the table: Don’t let these Muslims foist their Islamist ideology on the United States.

Yet, Omar is not the only one force-feeding American and American-Muslim audiences the Islamist narrative. In May  2018, CNN published a myopic list of “25 Influential American Muslims” (after claiming, ironically, that no one speaks for Muslim Americans).

The list pushed forward 25 names pulled from a year-long series of conversations with about a 100 American Muslims. In response, I brought together Rabi’a Keeble (a female imam and Democratic activist), Professor Khaleel Mohammed (a professor of religion at San Diego State University), Sheikh Uthman Khan (academic dean at Critical Loyalty), and journalist Mansour Al-Hadj — all diverse Muslim voices who co-penned and approved the following message pushing back against CNN’s myopic list:

“While CNN’s list includes some heavy-hitting voices among American Muslims, it is dangerously void of any controversy or diversity of opinion that reflects the rich tapestry of American Muslims. We urge media outlets to be more well-researched in the anti-American attitudes adopted by figures they choose to applaud with time-slots, interviews and laurels of credibility.

It is highly irresponsible to conflate commendable voices within the CNN top 25 list with voices that routinely strangle Muslims with one hand while raising fist to air in demonstrations against the same marginalization and supremacism they complain of when crying “Islamophobia.” Outright anti-Islam sentiment and veiled bigotry are real concerns, but often those the American media sees as champions against these practices are the same people who exert the same oppression within their own faith group.

The media (along with philanthropic organizations and political influencers) must understand that emboldening and supporting American Muslims means understanding there are many sides to Islam. Our voices are not the minority nor are we a fringe. Since Islam does not have — and should not have — centralized power, maintaining balance in how American Muslim are portrayed is pinnacle to ensuring integrity and respect for our faith. Anything else is culpability in establishing an American caliphate.”

The struggle against the Islamist tide goes deep: It’s an on-going assault against the moderate Muslim collective.

  • On July 4, 2019, prominent Ahmadi Muslim Dr. Kashif N. Chaudhry took to Facebook to share his alienating encounter with top U.S. imam Omar Suleiman. Suleiman blocked Dr. Chaudhry for asking whether the imam would comment on Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi laws that persecute Ahmadi Muslims for their religious beliefs.

Suleiman is a CAIR-supported Dallas-based cleric who in May of 2019 was invited to Congress to offer an opening prayer. The invitation came despite a public laundry list of his Jew-hating public comments. Like Ilhan Omar, Omar Suleiman does not represent American Muslims: He represents Islamists.

In February of 2017, Dr. Chaudhry penned a HuffPost op-ed, Who Speaks for America’s Muslims? And Why Americans Must Know.” In a stunning attack against Islamists, Dr. Chaudhry wrote,

“Like white supremacy, Sunni supremacy is a real phenomenon in parts of the ‘Muslim world,’ and is equally deadly, if not more.

Many Sunni clerics and activists in the United States also harbor deep prejudice against members of minority Muslim communities. Televangelist Nouman Ali Khan, preacher Yasir Qadhi, and the renowned Sheikh Hamza Yusuf are few of many prominent Muslims who have used derogatory language for Ahmadi Muslims, referring to them as Kafirs (infidels), or as a dangerous cancer within the Muslim community. In fact, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s official website has a full article dedicated to Ahmadi Muslims, labeling the Islamic sect a seditious cancer and its members infidel.

The more Islamist figures like Ilhan Omar and her kind are checked off as fitting the diversity box for American Muslims, the less voice moderate Muslims will have to win the hearts and minds of the next generation.

 

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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