After Far-Right Attacks, Muslim Candidate Commits to Fighting 'Politics of Fear'

Ilhan Omar fended off attacks from far-right activist Laura Loomer the weekend before her primary in Minnesota's 5th congressional district.

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Aug 14 2018, 4:18pm

After shaking off conservative attacks this past weekend, Minnesota state legislator Ilhan Omar will head to her primaries on Tuesday with hopes of joining congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib in becoming the first Muslim women to go to Congress.

Tlaib, coming off her own primary win in Michigan, had been campaigning alongside Omar on August 11 when far-right activist Laura Loomer interrupted the rally to bombard the two women with questions about their backgrounds and stances on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

"Rashida, are you willing to admit as a congresswoman that Hamas is a terrorist organization?" Loomer's heard asking in what Newsweek termed a "heavily edited" video she posted from the event. "What about your Jewish constituents?" she continues. "Why is she so hateful against Israel? Ilhan, why did you marry your brother?"

Loomer's latter question refers to allegations that circulated in 2016, accusing Omar of marrying her brother in an illegal bid to secure her immigration status. At the time, Omar's campaign called the allegations "categorically ridiculous and false."

Loomer told the Star Tribune her demonstration at Omar and Tlaib's joint campaign event was part of her ongoing mission to "investigate" Muslim candidates running this cycle, and later she tweeted that she refused to "sit back" and watch the two women "spew Jew hatred."

Omar's no stranger to Islamophobic attacks. In the wake of President Donald Trump's election, Omar, who'd just become the country's first Somali-American state legislator, said a cab driver called her "ISIS" and threatened to take off her hijab. The incident happened just after Omar had visited the Minnesota State Capitol for the first time, a place that carried great symbolism for Omar as a Muslim woman and Somali-American refugee.

It’s the beginning of something new,” Omar had said following her 2016 win. “I am excited for our progressive values and to be able to be on the ground at the Capitol representing the diverse people of my district and being a champion with them and for them.”

Omar plans to do the same on Tuesday, when she'll face off against a crowded field of Democratic primary challengers in a bid for Representative Keith Ellison's seat in Minnesota's 5th congressional district. Omar's running on a slate of progressive platforms including Medicare for All, housing for all and criminal justice reform, similar to those that helped New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to victory in June.

Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Omar last week, calling her a "modern-day hero" and "champion for working families" in a Friday tweet. "Time to push her in," Ocasio-Cortez continued.

Omar hasn't responded directly to Loomer's barrage of questions from Saturday, and her campaign didn't immediately respond to Broadly's requests for comment. But she appeared to allude to the anti-Muslim sentiments in a statement on Tuesday about combatting the "politics of fear."

"Today is about more than winning, it's about building a coalition to fight the politics of fear and scarcity," Omar wrote in a tweet. "I'm a legislator, a refugee, and a working mom. But above all, I'm an organizer. And I'm ready to organize for the America we deserve. I'm asking you to join me."