One of America’s first Muslim congresswomen has vowed not to be silenced after Donald Trump led an attack on her for controversial remarks she made about 9/11.
Rep Ilhan Omar of Minnesota sparked a furious row after she characterised the atrocity by saying “some people did something” during a speech in Los Angeles last month to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
On Friday, President Trump tweeted a video tagged “WE WILL NEVER FORGET” which featured footage of the Twin Towers in flames interspersed with Miss Omar’s comments. Hours later, a man was arrested for threatening to kill the former refugee who came to the US from Somalia as a child.
Undeterred, the 37-year-old tweeted this weekend: “I did not run for Congress to be silent. I did not run for Congress to sit on the sidelines. I ran because I believed it was time to restore moral clarity and courage to Congress. To fight and to defend our democracy.”
While most fellow members of the Democratic Party leaped to her defence, rounding on Mr Trump for pushing anti Muslim rhetoric and inciting racial hatred, Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representative, was notably measured in her reaction.
While admonishing the president, her response has also been read as chastising of the freshman congresswoman who has a history of making controversial remarks.
“The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, and any discussion of it must be done with reverence,” she tweeted on Saturday. “The President shouldn’t use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack.”
As the row refused to die down this weekend, there was anger from both sides.
Cory Booker, who on Saturday became the 18th Democrat to announce that he is running for the presidency, described the US leader’s actions as “moral vandalism”.
“To see a president of the United States to use images of 9/11 in a vicious, crass, disgusting way – that is so objectionable. That is so offensive. And this is what I mean about moral vandalism in our country that’s going on,” he told American TV yesterday.
And Elizabeth Warren, another presidential contender, said: “The President is inciting violence against a sitting congresswoman – and an entire group of Americans based on their religion.”
Others called for Mr Trump to be banned from Twitter while Republicans argued Miss Omar unforgivably glossed over the horrors of September 11.
Ms Omar, who represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional district, became the country’s first female Muslim lawmaker along with Rashida Tlaib, when they won seats in last November’s mid terms elections.
She has remained in the spotlight ever since and in February she was forced to apologise after she made anti Semitic remarks regarding the US’s close knit relationship with Israel which she alluded was down to money.
Mr Trump called on her to resign.
Ms Tlaib has come under fire for her ties to a Palestinian group, some of whose members hold extremist views.
On Meet the Press yesterday, Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the president, described the two women as “radical freshmen” adding that moderate Democrats are frustrated with them. saying they are causing “trouble in Pelosi paradise.”
When asked abut the controversy on Sunday, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, condemned Miss Omar while emphasising that the president wished Miss Omar no harm.
“It’s absolutely abhorrent the comments she continues to make and has made and Democrats look the other way,” she said. “I find what her comments to be absolutely disgraceful and unbefitting of a member of Congress and I think that it’s a good thing that the president is calling her out for those comments, and the big question is why aren’t Democrats doing it as well.”
In a separate development, Miss Sanders also said Congress was “not smart” enough to understand Donald Trump’s tax returns as the pressure to release them heightened with Monday marking Tax Day in the US.