Interview With CAIR’s Asha Noor and How Ilhan Omar is Shaking Up Politics
“Threats of violence against Ilhan show that this level of vitriol, xenophobia and Islamophobia is so rife that it can even ‘punch up’ in a way. I think that increases the reality of the situation.”
Asha Noor of the Michigan branch of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a peace-building and conflict resolution specialist, racial justice and human rights activist*. During her graduate studies at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, she focused on Somalia and conflicts facing the Somali Diaspora.
Noor spoke to Citizen Truth concerning the current climate surrounding how the Democratic and Republican parties interact with the Muslim community and United States Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5th).
On Rise of Violence Against Muslims and Threats Against Ilhan Omar
“Absolutely. The right-wing no matter what she says will and misconstrue and take it out of context,” Noor began when asked if she felt the Republican party was purposely framing Rep. Omar’s 9/11 comments out of context. “…[They] are putting their own meaning and projections onto what she is saying, I think it is very intentional.”
“I think there has been a legitimate increase in violence against Muslims in America over the past couple of years. It’s documented. It’s clear. It’s a reality that there is a threat,” Noor began when asked if she felt her personal safety was affected by the rhetoric surrounding the Muslim community. She continued:
“Threats of violence against Ilhan show that this level of vitriol, xenophobia, and Islamophobia is so rife that it can even ‘punch up’ in a way. I think that increases the reality of the situation. Muslims in America has [sic] been experiencing the rise of hate crimes and direct violence. Seeing someone in Congress going through similar if not worse attacks, show that it’s [Islamophobia] is [sic] this pervasive and this real.”
Noor co-hosted Omar her Michigan before Omar ran for her first seat in the Minnesota legislature. They came to know each other from work from doing similar community work in their respective cities*.
“It’s going to feel personal no matter what because she’s another Muslim woman who is Somali who happens to have a very similar background [to Noor]. Just to see that she is getting death threats, and to see her families life be threatened; it’s deeply personal for me, we have similar stories. Our families went through similar refugee stories,” Noor stated when asked if she took the threats made against Representative Omar personally due to their previous acquaintance. “Seeing her be punished for it [attempting to make a positive difference in the nation] is really disheartening, so yeah it is absolutely personal.”
Noor continued to say that she feels no one should have to experience the levels of threats Representative Omar and her family has had to face.
On Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump
“She was [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] being intentionally vague in a lot of her responses in the attacks against Ilhan. Not really being a good buffer for a freshman representative, and I thought on her part it was irresponsible.
“The number one irresponsible person in this situation is Trump, being the President of the United States and sharing such biased and hateful imagery is extremely irresponsible and has directly put Representative Omar and her family in danger,” Noor said when asked about the response of House leadership to the threats against Representative Omar.
“However, that does not excuse people like Pelosi who have remained relatively silent, vague and indifferent to attacks on Omar’s life.
“I feel like many representatives are being hypocritical towards Ilhan and not applying the same treatment across the board,” Noor replied when asked if she felt there was hypocrisy on Speaker Pelosi’s part.
Pelosi brought a House Resolution against Omar prior to the wording being changed to include all forms of bigotry after Representative Omar’s tweets against AIPAC were taken out of context, while not attempting to do the same after Representative Mo Brooks (R-Al-5th) read an anti-Semitic passage from Mein Kampf on the House floor.
“I still stand firm that she [Ilhan Omar] did nothing wrong,” Noor added when recounting the events following Representative Omar’s critiquing AIPAC. Noor added in detail how she feels Representative Omar is receiving hostility from the Democratic party, while others have received a pass or support for directly bigoted statements.
“That is a clear indication that there is Islamophobia and xenophobia within the Democratic party. She [Ilhan] is facing either little to no support; if not hostility from her own party — forget about even what the right is doing, that is a Pandora’s box.”
On Diversity Within The Democratic Party
Noor stated that there have been a “select few” within the Democratic party who have been quite vocal in their support of Representative Omar from the beginning.
“Mostly those running for President have been vocal because their platforms depend on largely the progressive left, the younger population of the country. Meaning supporting those in Congress who support those [Social Democratic] values in Congress at the moment; like Representative Omar,” she answered after being asked about the responses from those running for the Democratic nomination for President.
Noor added that she believes some are reacting out of their own “moral accord,” but it is “politically advantageous” to comment on a high profile situation like this. She reiterated that she could get more support from her party and even from some “daring” members of the right.
Noor responded, “Absolutely,” when asked to clarify if she felt Representative Omar was not getting more support from the Democratic party because she is Muslim.
“It may not even be on a conscious level. Many people don’t understand that bias can be unconscious at times and people can have an unconscious bias against Muslims, black people, women and refugees. You can [sic] them all at the same time as well, which creates compounded impact and neglect in terms of giving support. Omar exists in all of those identities at the intersection of those identities.”
Noor continued on the topic:
“I firmly believe diversity is something the Democratic party wants to see, but not hear. The imagery of such a person is fantastic, for the development of the party. But actually having someone in that intersection having something to say is too much for them, I believe. It’s like they like to see this [diversity] for photo opportunities, and the perception of progress. However, if you have anything critical to say or have anything of value, or of substance, or something profound, or something that may create transformation; then we don’t want to deal with it because it’s too much.
“I think that’s how the Democratic party is dealing with her [Representative Omar]. That’s how Pelosi is dealing with her. It’s like ‘we would like to see you, but we don’t really want you to be vocal about your opinions.’ To be seen but not heard. You can even see that in the [Rolling Stone ] cover with her, Pelosi, and others [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jahana Hayes]. The imagery is okay, but the actual substance, content and want for transformation Omar brings, and this fresh perspective she brings; is really uncomfortable for a lot of people in her own party. That says more about them than her because I think she’s doing fantastic.”
“Admitting there is little to no diversity of thought in the party. The Centrist wing [Conservative Liberal to Third Way] of approaching the party has dominated its landscape for a long time. Accepting that things are changing and that the party needs to catch up, admit that it’s not actually doing what it needs to do besides a lot of pandering,” Asha said when asked what she felt the Democratic party needed to do in order to embrace a diversity of thought and to ensure that “rhetoric matches action.”
*Edited for further clarification.