MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – At a conference on Muslims in politics this week, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar was “disgusted” at an activist’s question about female genital mutilation, saying that she and other Muslim lawmakers are often asked to “waste their time” addressing issues other members of Congress aren’t.
The audience at the Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy in Washington D.C. erupted in cheers Tuesday when Omar responded to the question saying: “I want to make sure that the next time someone is in an audience, and is looking at me and Rashida [Tlaib, the congresswoman from Michigan]…that they ask us the proper questions that they will probably ask any member of Congress or any legislator or any politician.”
The question Omar was responding to was on whether she’d give a statement on female genital mutilation (FGM), the cultural custom that is sometimes referred to as female circumcision or cutting. The question came from Ani Zonneveld, a Muslim human rights activist and founder of Muslims for Progressive Values.
Prior to asking Omar for a statement, Zonneveld referenced the case of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who was charged in federal court in connection to performing genital mutilation on nine girls in the Upper Midwest, some of which were from Minnesota. The FGM charges were dismissed because the judge ruled that the federal law banning FGM was unconstitutional.
Omar called the activist’s question “appalling,” saying that she’s supported bills against FGM while in the Minnesota Legislature and in Congress, in addition to giving statements about the issue in the past. She said that such questions and calls for comment carry with them the accusation that she and other Muslim lawmakers somehow support FGM.
As part of her response to Zonneveld, Omar joked that she should perhaps make a schedule so she doesn’t forget to condemn FGM, al-Qaida or Hamas on a daily basis. “Does this need to be on repeat every 5 minutes,” she said, adding: “It is a very frustrating question…you can look at my recorded. I’ve voted for four bills doing what you’re asking me to do.”
On Facebook, Zonneveld criticized Omar for her response, saying that the congresswoman “could have taken the opportunity to educate the audience instead of throwing red meat.” According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have suffered FGM. While the practice is most common in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, it has spread to immigrant communities.
In her Facebook posts, Zonneveld compared Omar’s way of speaking to that of President Donald Trump, whose Twitter feed lately has been a fount of criticism toward the congresswoman.
In one mid-July tweet, Trump said that Omar and three other congresswoman of color in “The Squad” should go back to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The Democratic-led House voted to condemn the president’s words as racist.
Days later, at a rally in North Carolina where Trump heavily criticized Omar, his supporters chanted “Send her back! Send her back!” and the president did nothing to stop it.
The next day, Omar vowed to be a “nightmare” to the president, to which Trump responded Tuesday saying in a tweet that she and the rest of The Squad are a “nightmare for America.”