Should We Believe Ilhan Omar’s Apology Over Anti-Semitic Tweet?

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Ilhan Omar during the 116th Congress and swearing-in ceremony on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar during the 116th Congress and swearing-in ceremony on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives at the Capitol. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s apology over her 2012 anti-Semitic tweet begs the question: Should we believe her? 

In November 2012, Ilhan Omar tweeted an opinion pulled directly from the conspiracy theories circling around the Jewish faith and people — conspiracy theories that through generations have allowed for dehumanization and barbaric violence against the Jewish people. 

Ilhan Omar's tweet

After winning her congressional race, the tweet surfaced again with reporters asking her what she meant by it, and adding that people were offended over her remark. This wasn’t the first time the tweet was brought to light. The issue was raised during the congressional race as well.  She was fully aware of it and left it up without any remorse or reflection on her rhetoric. 

Ilhan Omar had consistently been unapologetic about her hateful tweet, including up through January 17, 2019, when CNN’s hosts ask her about it once again. As the first interviewing on a new CNN series called Game Changers, hosts asked Ilhan Omar what her message was to Jewish Americans who found her tweet deeply offensive. 

Ilhan Omar’s response was: 

“Oh, that’s a really a regrettable way of expressing that. Um, I don’t know, um, how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza war, um, and I’m clearly speaking about the way that the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war.”

Bari Weiss Ilhan Omar

On January 21, 2019, The New York Times’ Bari Weiss wrote a stunning op-ed titled Ilhan Omar and the Myth of Jewish Hypnosis. The article went viral and it was a devastating strike against an unapologetic conspiracy-fueled, Jew-hating remark. That evening, Ilhan Omar’s apology finally came in the form of a tweet thread. 

My experience with leaders who stand by anti-Semitic slurs…then apologize.

The question is, should we believe Ilhan Omar’s apology over an anti-Semitic tweet? The answer is, I can’t tell you what to think. I can only tell you of my experience as a Muslim reformer. 

Ilhan Omar’s 2012 tweet reads like exactly out of the playbook of hate imams. These are imams and religious leaders who use a medieval Hadith (second-hand sayings about the life and times of the prophet) to justify that Jew-hatred and dehumanization of the Jewish people.

Hadiths are second hand sources (not primary religious texts like the Quran) that have made it on the same hierarchal playing field as the Quran through dogmatic reliance. Hadiths invoked by hate imams across the U.S. that call for an apocalyptic war with the Jews, and include passages that say even the natural world would turn against the Jew in the last hours.

This is as dehumanizing at it gets and there is absolutely no excuse for it, whether it’s coming out of any tier of religious texts or individuals. Ilhan Omar’s play of sticking with a grossly heinous tweet and playing innocent and confused at the justified horror over it is exactly what hate imams do. 

Here’s what these Jew-hating religious leaders do: 

  • Incident occurs over Israel/Palestine.
  • Hate imams take to pulpits with sermon dehumanizing Israelis, invoking conspiracy theories. 
  • Sermon is sometimes broadcast on YouTube and remains uploaded with no further apology or common sense from mosque that hired the hate imam. 
  • Sermon reaches the attention of the public. 
  • Public finds sermon offensive. 
  • Hate imam and mosque are unapologetic. 
  • Public outrage reaches media, starts going viral. 
  • Imam gathers together interfaith “allies” now used as a background prop as a limp public apology is made. 
  • Public believes limp apology.
  • Nothing changes with imam or mosque to introduce alternative messaging or stimulate greater self-awareness.
  • Rinse, repeat. 

In my experience with hate imams, they need to be removed. Period. They need to be removed because there is always a pattern of behavior in how they conduct themselves, as evidenced here.

The same pattern of behavior exists with Ilhan Omar: 

  • In the CNN Game Changer series segment, Ilhan Omar couldn’t differentiate between an opinion of Senator Lindsey Graham and an accusation against him. 
  • Ilhan Omar demonstrates disturbing leniency toward terrorism, including asking for life insurance for terrorists’ families. 
  • In 2016, Ilhan Omar wrote a letter to a judge requesting a more lenient sentence on behalf of a Minnesota man who was accused of trying to join ISIS. 

Whether or not you believe her apology is sincere, I will quote one American who tweeted the following about Ilhan Omar: “You have a duty to be better informed.”


Ilhan Omar Controversy: Where Does She Get Her Views?

Muslim Response to Anti-Semitism Not Good Enough, Says Reformer

Life Insurance for Terrorists’ Families?


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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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