How Ilhan Omar’s Politics Set Her against Liberal Muslims

August 13, 2019 | Nervana Mahmoud
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At a recent public event, Representative Ilhan Omar was asked by a liberal Muslim activist if she and her fellow speaker Representative Rashida Tlaib would condemn female genital mutilation (FGM). Omar, rather than answering, announced that the question “disgusted” her and that she wanted “to make sure the next time someone is in an audience that they ask us the proper questions.” Since then, Omar has found herself in an extended Twitter spat with the former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan—who has herself received fierce criticism for posing with her Israeli counterpart, and has called the congresswoman anti-Semitic. Nervana Mahmoud explains why Omar’s particular synthesis of Islamic radicalism with American liberalism puts her permanently at odds with other Muslims:

Ilhan Omar represents a new generation of Islamist. . . . She quotes passages from the Quran in her tweets, and proudly wears the hijab as a sign of devotion to orthodox Islam, but then cherry-picks some aspects of liberalism, such as opposing the death penalty, favoring abortion, and supporting gay and transsexual rights. Such a liberal-orthodox mix aims to appeal to progressive Westerners and fit in with their anti-Trump agenda, while maintaining popularity with her Islamist base.

Omar does not directly support radical Islamist groups, but, like other Islamists, she refuses to admit the ideological link between Islamism and [terrorism]. Ilhan prefers to blame [terror on] oppression and American policies—a common line shared by Islamists and Western progressives. Those who oppose [those strains] of Islamic theology that sanction terrorism and other barbaric practices such as FGM . . . can be a thorn in the side of both camps.

Ilhan Omar is not a liberal Muslim with a headscarf; she is an Islamist with a deceptive liberal cover who aims to alienate real progressive Muslims, and to present herself and her Islamist [allies] as useful voices in the fight against Donald Trump.

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