The first ever Muslim Caucus, designed to collect and amplify Muslim voices in the media, came with heavy blows and criticisms against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
During a panel event, Omar was asked two questions by Ani Zonneveld, president of Muslims for Progressive Values. The second question was about female genital mutilation (FGM). Zonneveld asked Omar to make a statement against FGM.
FGM particularly affects the Somali community Ilhan Omar is from and represents. It was an opportunity for Omar, a political leader who has supported a bill against FGM, to go one further and use her broad platform to remind people that FGM should be outlawed in every state.
Instead, Zonneveld received a harsh backlash from the freshman congresswoman. Berating Zonneveld, Omar said,
Your second question is an appalling question because there are bills that we vote on, bills we sponsor, many statements we put out, and then we’re in a panel like this and the question is posed: ‘Could you and Rashida do this?’ And it’s like, how often — should I make a schedule? Does this need to be on repeat every five minutes? Should I be like, ‘So today I forgot to condemn al-Qaeda, so here’s the al-Qaeda one, today I forgot to condemn FGM, so here it goes, today I forgot to condemn Hamas, so here it goes, you know what I mean?
Ilhan Omar’s harsh response to a respected Muslim progressive leader triggered a wave of reaction from Muslim Americans. While many Muslim Americans were not pleased by the lack of diversity of Muslims in the Muslim Caucus, many were even less pleased that a legitimate question from one Muslim human rights activist to a Muslim political leader would yield such a harsh response.
I spoke with Democratic activist and female imam, Rabi’a Keeble to unpack the events of the day and what we can learn from the conflict within the American Muslim community when it comes to pushing forward a human rights agenda.