US congressional Muslim staff members demand action on Islamophobia
By Andy Roesgen
CHICAGO, United States (AA): Dozens of Muslim congressional staff members sent an open letter Wednesday to the US House of Representatives’ leadership, demanding consequences for Islamophobic comments made by a Republican member.
The letter denounced comments by Lauren Boebert from the state of Colorado, who was seen on video at a public event joking that Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar joined her on an elevator at the Capitol building, and left Boebert thinking: “‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,’” a reference to terrorism. She then referred to Omar as part of the “jihad squad.”
The comments outraged Omar, a Democratic from the state of Minnesota, and other Muslims. Omar said the story was not true.
Sixty-two Muslim staff members in the House and Senate, along with nearly 400 allied staff, signed the letter which decried “hateful rhetoric by public officials (which) puts our safety at risk, both at the workplace and in our everyday lives.”
“Witnessing unchecked harassment of one of only three Muslim members of Congress – and the only visible Muslim member – we feel that our workplace is neither safe nor welcome,” it said.
The back-and-forth about Boebert’s comments has gotten increasingly contentious.
“This buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol. Sad she thinks this bigotry gets her clout,” Omar tweeted after the comments were made public last month.
Boebert released a statement on her congressional Twitter account saying, “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar,” and added that there were “plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”
She said she would also be calling Omar personally, but Omar said in the call, Boebert did not give a direct apology and “doubled down on her rhetoric and I decided to end the unproductive call.”
Since then, Omar said she has received hateful, threatening messages. She and other Democrats have called on Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to strip Boebert of her congressional committee assignments. But McCarthy said he is satisfied with Boebert’s apology.
The letter demanded that Congress “reject this incendiary rhetoric that endangers the physical, mental and emotional well-being of staff across both sides of the aisle.”
Omar said she is confident that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will take steps to rebuke Boebert for her comments.
[Archive Photo: US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in the House of Representatives after the swearing-in ceremony on 4 November 2019. Photographer: Yasin Ozturk/AA]
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