Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Saturday said she believes President Donald Trump’s hateful comments toward Muslims has inspired attacks such as the recent mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques that left 50 people dead.
“We all kind of knew that this was happening,” Omar said of attacks against Muslims. “But the reason I think that many of us knew that this was going to get worse is that we finally had a leader in the White House who publicly says Islam hates us, who fuels hate against Muslims, who thinks it is OK to speak about a faith and a whole community in a way that is dehumanizing, vilifying.”
Omar, who addressed attendees during a banquet for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Southern California, suggested Trump inciting hatred against Islam has helped fuel the same hatred behind the March 15 attack in Christchurch, as well as threats to mosques in the United States.
The Minnesota Democrat, whose speech was partially live streamed on Facebook, said the president “makes us want to think that he doesn’t understand” the consequences behind his Islamophobic language, when he is actually fully aware of the magnitude of his words.
“He knows that there are people that he can influence to threaten our lives, to diminish our presence,” she added.
Many Muslim leaders in the U.S. have called for action against Islamophobia in wake of the the New Zealand massacre. Some have requested for increased security at Muslim institutions, especially during prayer times. Others, like CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, have called on Trump to tone down his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Following the Christchurch attacks, Trump accused journalists of “working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.”
“They will have to work very hard to prove that one,” he tweeted. “So ridiculous.”
Top White House aide Kellyanne Conway also defended the president, telling reporters they should “look at what the president said right away, condemning violence, condemning hate, standing with the people of New Zealand.”
Outside the CAIR event, a handful of Trump supporters and demonstrators ―some who waved Israeli and U.S. flags or held signs that labeled Omar as as anti-Semitic ― protested Omar.
The freshman congresswoman has faced intense scrutiny from the public and some of her fellow lawmakers over comments she made earlier this year about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on American foreign policy. She recently wrote a column in the Washington Post endorsing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Much of that scrutiny against Omar has involved painting her as an anti-Semite, which Trump has done as well.
Schmuley Boteach, a rabbi who publicly aligns himself with figures like Steve Bannon, bought an ad in the Washington Post’s Sunday paper depicting Omar as anti-Semitic.
Omar shut down protesters during her speech.
“There are thoroughly fascinating people outside who for so many years have spoken about an Islam that is oppressive, an Islam that lessens and isolates its women, and today they gather outside to protest a Muslim woman who is in Congress,” she said. “The irony in that is very entertaining to me.”
Omar’s speech “was applauded enthusiastically,” the Los Angeles Times reported.