Ihan Omar Removed from Foreign Affairs Committee


House Republicans, now being in the majority under the leadership of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (D-CA), having mounted a smear campaign against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her antisemitic comments, which she later apologized for, removed her yesterday from the Foreign Affairs Committee. House Resolution 76 (H. RES.76) submitted by Rep. Max Miller (R-OH) calls for her removal because “Representative Omar ’s comments have brought dishonor to the House of Representatives.” The removal however was a smokescreen preordained by McCarthy who promised as part of his bid to become speaker to remove Omar for her progressive and outspoken criticism of U.S. foreign policy and her stand on human rights.

The hypocrisy of zeroing in on Omar for her comments while ignoring antisemitic comments made by the likes of Marjorie Taylor Green and others can only be understood as Islamophobic in nature.

The vote to remove Omar from the committee took place as civil and human rights groups representatives and activists held a press conference outside the Capitol. After much heated debate in the House, the resolution for removal was narrowly passed  211-218, not exactly the landslide McCarthy and the GOP had hoped for.

Despite the GOP’s overtly partisan effort in removing Omar from the committee, Bloomberg media reported that House Democrats approved by “…unanimous consent during a closed-door meeting last week to allow Omar to remain on the committee.”

Her election in 2018 along with that of Rashida Tlaib (DMI), made them the first Muslim women elected to Congress, resulting in both being continuously subjected to “inordinate special treatment” by many colleagues who question their loyalty to the U.S. while criticizing them for their religion. This includes numerous anonymous death threats that as of late have increased in frequency.

Both women who have strong opinions on U.S. foreign policy and immigration and have not been afraid to speak out, making their positions known. At every instance when having done so they have been criticized and condemned with anti-Muslim rhetoric. While they have both been labeled as antisemitic, the harsh criticism and condemnation directed towards them seldom been labeled or condemned by the GOP as being Islamophobic.

It is especially hypocritical that in bringing the case against Omar before the Committee on Ethics it hasn’t worked both ways in dealing with antisemitic comments and White Nationalists among GOP other members.

At yesterday’s press conference CAIR Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell addressed the vote to remove Omar noting, “This vote had no legitimate basis. If Kevin McCarthy wanted to fight real anti-semitism, he would condemn Donald Trump, kick Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar back off their committees and apologize for embracing the far-right. Instead, he uses bad-faith attacks to smear and silence the first Black Muslim woman elected to Congress. Today’s vote is not only an attack on Ilhan Omar, but the broader American Muslim community, our right to engage in the political process, and our dedication to speaking up for all victims of injustice, including the Palestinian people.”

Donna Farvard, National Organizing Director of the National Iranian-American Council Action, reflected on Omar’s unique experiences as a refuge that qualify her as a valuable member on the committee by noting that “Representative Omar knows what it is like to flee a war-torn country and live in a refugee camp. She knows that foreign policy isn’t just a political game – it has real consequences for real people. If the U.S. supports a dictator or sanctions that harm ordinary people, that has real world effects. Representative Omar has been consistent in standing up for justice and against militarism at every turn. … it is outrageous that Speaker McCarthy launched this McCarthyite witch hunt to remove her from the committee.”

Muslim Policy Affairs Council, Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Mohammad H. Ali opined that “Censorship is a hallmark of authoritarian governments, and what the House of Representatives just voted in favor of is just another form of that. By stripping Representative Ilhan Omar of her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, her unique perspective, specifically as a refugee, will weaken the panel from achieving its core mission…” He followed by asking if Speaker McCarthy’s long-standing desire to remove representative Omar from the committee “…is in line with our democratic values? Or is it in line with authoritarian censorship?…Given that, we demand the speaker reverse the silencing of Rep. Omar’s voice.”

Emily Kaplan of Jewish Voice for Peace Action said that the group is proud to stand in support of Congresswoman Omar and that “Speaker McCarthy and the GOP are waging a disgusting smear campaign against the Congresswoman in an attempt to stop her progressive work in Congress. Representative Omar is aggressive, she’s effective, she’s a Black Muslim woman who dares to tell of hawkish U.S. foreign policy. Her values are universal, popular and exciting for Palestinians. The Republicans in Congress are doing everything in their power to silence her. As a Jewish organization proudly working on human rights, we can see a horrifying danger of Speaker McCarthy and the GOP’s cynical attempts to falsely smear Representative Omar. The Republican Party is riddled with White nationalists and antisemitism. And the party has become increasingly bold and vocal in their hate and racism.”

Clearly after today’s action in removing Representative Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, in the resolution’s own words, the decision has “brought dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

Photo by Phil Pasquini

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.

(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)

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