Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — one of the few Muslims ever elected to Congress, the first person to wear a hijab and the first Somali American naturalized citizen to be elected in the House of Representatives — has been the victim of recent violent anti-Muslim remarks and death threats.
In a video of a campaign event, which made rounds on Twitter over Thanksgiving break, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) spoke about an interaction she had with Omar in an elevator on Capitol Hill, after a nervous police officer ran in their direction.
Boebert said that she looked over at Omar and said to herself, “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”
Boebert went on to call Omar part of the “jihad squad” — using existing anti-Muslim tropes to stir her base and create a dangerous environment for Omar and other American Muslims.
Omar says that the elevator incident never happened. In a tweet, Omar called Boebert a "buffoon" and said, ”Anti-Muslim bigotry isn’t funny & shouldn’t be normalized. Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation.”
Boebert has been a notorious gun-rights advocate. In a virtual House committee meeting in February, Boebert sat in front of at least three firearms as she debated about whether she and her fellow lawmakers should be banned from bringing firearms to said committee meetings.
On Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol insurrection, Boebert tweeted at 8:30 a.m., before the attack on the Capitol began: “Today is 1776.” She's still under investigation for her alleged connection to the attack.
Boebert also owns a restaurant in her home state of Colorado called "Shooters Grill," where staff are encouraged to carry guns.
Boebert also revolted against metal detectors being used in the Capitol after setting one off, and refusing to let Capitol police examine her bag. The detectors were added to the House and Senate chambers in the wake of the Jan 6. insurrection.
After being criticized for her unsafe gun storage, Boebert responded, “Who says this is storage? These are ready for use.”
Members of Congress are allowed to have unarmed firearms in their offices — but Boebert wants to change that. She wrote a letter signed by conservative Congress members to allow members of Congress to bring their firearms to committee meetings.
Omar has been outspoken against Boebert and the violence that she is perpetuating against herself and other Muslims.
“I myself have reported hundreds of threats on my life often triggered by Republican attacks on my faith," Omar said during a press briefing on Nov. 30.
“When I first ran for public office, I was told I had to take off my hijab if I ever wanted to win. It was too Muslim, the thinking went," she said. "When I did win, my colleague Steve King claimed another member said of my hijab: 'Four pounds of C-4 under that would wipe out half of Congress.'”
She then played chilling audio of a death threat she received, laced with violent anti-Muslim sentiments that accused her of “taking over the country” and calling her a jihadist.
“You will not live that much longer bitch,” the speaker said, among other threats. “I can almost guarantee you that.”
Omar also discussed how religious freedom is a fundamental right embedded in the American Constitution, and linked Boebert’s recent comments to a longer history of anti-Muslim hatred in both Congress and American society at large.
Many Republican leaders have been eerily silent about the issue.
Omar called House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) a “liar and a coward” for refusing to condemn Boebert’s hate speech. She also said she was “very confident” that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will take action against Boebert — which could result in removing the Colorado representative from committee meetings.
She told CNN that McCarthy, “doesn’t have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his party. This is who they are. And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact that their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Of course, Boebert’s accusations aren't rooted in reality. She's harking back to already present racist stereotypes that exist in media and the American psyche to galvanize hate and spread misinformation.
Her comments, and worse, her continuous doubling-down on them, demonstrates that anti-Muslim violence is an omnipresent issue still plaguing this country.
Boebert's lack of consequences thus far raises an important question: What horrible atrocity has to occur against a woman of color for there to be long-standing repercussions against lawmakers who spew and encourage violence against their fellow elected representatives?