Outcry as Muslim lawmaker equates US and Israel with Taliban

Published June 11, 2021
In this file photo, Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, participates in a panel during a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders in Clive, Iowa. — AP/File
In this file photo, Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, participates in a panel during a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders in Clive, Iowa. — AP/File

WASHINGTON: US congresswoman Ilhan Omar faced a furious backlash on Thursday from colleagues across the political spectrum after the Muslim lawmaker accused the United States and Israel of “unthinkable atrocities” comparable to those of Hamas and the Taliban.

Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress, has antagonised or offended members of her Democratic Party in the past with comments that have been decried as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

But Republicans and Democrats alike have seized on her recent criticism of the United States to demand she clarify her remarks, or call outright for punishment including being stripped of her committee assignments.

Twelve Jewish House Democrats issued a rare public letter of disapproval against a member of their own party, writing that “equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided”. “The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups,” wrote the group, led by Brad Schneider of Illinois.

“We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words.”

At a House hearing on Monday, Omar — who was born in Somalia and immigrated to the United States as a refugee in the mid-1990s — grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken over accountability for victims of crimes against humanity.

She then followed up with a tweet that read: “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

“Rep Omar’s anti-Semitic & anti-American comments are abhorrent,” said top House Republican Kevin McCarthy.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021

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