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Next Generation Islamist? Abrar Omeish Wins Virginia Election

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Abrar Omeish speaks at a memorial for journalist Jamal Khashaggi, who was murdered by the Saudis. Khashoggi was a Qatari asset that had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Osama Bin Laden (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Abrar Omeish speaks at a memorial for journalist Jamal Khashaggi, who was murdered by the Saudis. Khashoggi was a Qatari asset that had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Osama Bin Laden (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Abrar Omeish just won a seat on the school board at Fairfax County in Virginia.  In the latest state elections, the 24-year-old became the youngest woman (and the first Muslim woman) to win a seat in Virginia.

In the counter-Islamist circle, Omeish is a well-known name.

The following tweet says it all:

Abrar Omeish’s father is Dr. Esam Omeish, a former Muslim American Society president.

In 2006, the Investigative Project on Terrorism released a video of Dr. Omeish endorsing violent jihad at a rally six years prior. That release resulted in a resignation from the state immigration board on which he served. 

In 2009, I exposed Dr. Omeish’s bid for Virginia’s House of Delegates. Among other items that exposed his radical theocratic leanings (which are rooted in the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood), I reported how in 2004, Dr. Omeish declared that Islam will either “become the dominant religion of the next century [or] we may be forcibly rejected from the West because of forces of intolerance, racism, and bigotry.”

At their 2019 annual gala, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) made it very clear that they were working to get Muslims into office. While every American has a right to run for office and civic duty is to be applauded, unfortunately in the case of Islamists, we know they are focused on creating a political environment where only their interpretation of Islam gains grounds. 

At the gala, CAIR’s founder and Executive Director Nihad Awad said,

“A strong CAIR equals a strong community. A strong community will produce a strong and confident and successful Muslim … “So I’m telling you tonight we are going to work in the next years, inshallah (God willing], to elect at least 30 Muslims in the Congress. This number is equivalent to our size and our potential as American Muslims. Including at least two [U.S.] senator Muslims.”

In the case of Abrar Omeish, the apple may not fall far from the tree.  In 2014, Abrar Omeish led a campaign to silence Ayaan Hirsi Ali based on the claim that Ali “doesn’t have the scholarly credentials to speak on Islam.” 

While I agree that personal narrative is not the same as an in-depth study of the faith, the difference between Islamists and Muslims like myself is that I fully support Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s right to speak and support her evolving space in the counter-Islamist circuit.

Unlike next generation Islamists like Abrar Omeish, I also don’t believe in toting my religious identity into the political space. 

And while it may seem like a school board is a small win compared to a congressional seat Benjamin Baird, the projects coordinator for the Islamism in Politics Project, points out how small political wins help pave the way in building a political career for next generation Islamists.

Baird is right to draw attention to the small wins. Case in point: Ilhan Omar’s bid for her congressional seat came at the heels of her time in the Minnesota State Assembly (which followed her work in grassroots initiatives).

As conservative political operatives have long held, local elections (which are perceived as small gains) are often ignored in favor of focusing on elections for larger offices. However, the smaller elections lay seed for what to expect during the next one or two election cycles.

Abrar Omeish is a case study in deploying a legacy approach to elected office as next generation Islamists look to build on campaign wins and losses by targeting local seats.

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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