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The first African refugee in U.S. Congress is facing death threats thanks to Trump

April 15, 2019 at 12:00 pm | News

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

April 15, 2019 at 12:00 pm | News

Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar speaks at her midterm election night party in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Miller - RC12F7A56A60

As the spotlight falls on Somali-American Ilhan Omar, the first African refugee in the U.S. Congress, so are the death threats against her after U.S. President Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on her.

The president posted a video last Friday of her speech to the California chapter of CAIR – the Council on American-Islamic Relations which was founded in 1994. She said Muslims in America have lived as second-class citizens for far too long resulting in the founding of CAIR “because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to civil liberties.”

This statement attracted more hateful comments towards the Congresswoman after Trump tweeted it with the caption “We will never forget!” and added an edited video of the 9/11 attacks.

“Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life – many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video. I thank the Capitol Police, the FBI, the House Sergeant at Arms, and the Speaker of the House for their attention to these threats,” Omar said in a statement on Sunday.

“Violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists are on the rise in this country and around the world. We can no longer ignore that they are being encouraged by the occupant of the highest office in the land.

“Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes in the months following the rally. And assaults increase when cities host Trump rallies. This is particularly concerning given the president’s visit to my home state of Minnesota on Monday,” she said.

“Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop,” she added.

Omar’s statement was taken seriously by Speaker Nancy Pelosi who called on Trump to “take down his disrespectful and dangerous video”. She also spoke with the Sergeant-at-Arms to ensure the safety of Omar, her family and staff.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders justified the president’s attacks on ABC’s “This Week” saying: “Certainly the President is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone, but the President is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her not only one time but history of anti-Semitic comments.”

The president was unapologetic about his attacks on Monday as he condemned Nancy Pelosi for defending Omar and accused the congresswoman of anti-Semitic speech against Israel.

“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!” he tweeted.

For now, Ilhan Omar’s safety lies in the hands of the Capitol Police who have been ordered to conduct a security assessment to safeguard Ilhan Omar, her family and her staff.

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Omar emigrated to the U.S. settling in Arlington, Virginia. Her family later moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She learned English in three months and started attending caucus meetings at the age of 14, serving as her grandfather’s interpreter.

The wife and mother of three has called Minneapolis home since 1997. Minnesota is also home to the United States’ largest Somali immigrant population. Her political success made her the first of two Muslim women to obtain state seats in the midst of religious and racial tensions.

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