Last week at a news conference, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar held her smartphone and played a voice mail containing a threat on her life. The death threat came from an unknown man after Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert's Islamophobic remarks.
Boebert is not the first politician to try making a name for herself in a racialized political world — a world crowded with Islamophobic, racist, anti-vax, anti-history, Trumpster sore losers.
During his troubling term in office, former President Donald Trump himself made Omar a frequent target for his Islamophobic rhetoric. After Omar appeared on my TV show Trump accused her of supporting terrorists, hating America and Israel, and mocked her faith and her Islamic dress (hijab).
Fox News made lots of money spreading lies and filth about Omar and Islam.
In her news conference, Omar announced that she has reported lots of death threats to the F.B.I. The latest voice mail, besides the usual Islamophobic nonsense and a racial slur, warns Omar that she "will not live much longer." Another fatwa on Omar's head. The media doesn't treat this kind of death threat as seriously as it did novelist Salman Rushdie's famous fatwa. I've yet to meet a Muslim who took it seriously. Only Rushdie did, and he gained lots of money and fame from it.
Many Americans hate Omar. From the Republicans, racists and evangelical right-wing nuts to members of her own party, Omar encapsulates everything America hates. She is a Muslim, a Black immigrant and a strong woman. For conservatives, Omar reminds them of American's dark, bloody racial history — a crash course in critical race theory. For so-called liberals, Omar reminds them of their innocence, their lost ideals in our troubling modern time.
Islamophobia in the West, especially in this country, has deep roots, from the Orientalist European who feared the dark Moors next door in the south to the Puritan Pilgrims who came to America to build a new world, a new Christian white utopia, away from old Europe, a promised land without history for the new sect of white Christians, a land that is called America.
Today, with technology, social media and global interdependency, the multicultural, multiethnic political system threatens much of America. Muslims have been racialized and demonized; as Sahar Aziz, in her new book "The Racial Muslim," succinctly explained, Muslims now are the only group of people that you can publicly demonize, attack, profile and accuse, and get away with it and maybe get elected. "To protect the security of all, we must curtail the liberty of Muslims. That is the narrative the United States government has peddled to the American public since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks," she wrote.
For the so-called progressive left, Omar reminds them of their civil and human rights struggle, which has been tamed. Those who are longing for a better America, an inclusive America, are troubled by Omar's treatment.
Ilhan Omar reminds Americans of their lost innocence ... and they hate it.
Ahmed Tharwat, host and producer of the local Arab American TV show "BelAhdan with Ahmed," writes for local and international publications. He blogs at Notes From America: www.Ahmediatv.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ahmediaTV.