The United States House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to approve a Democratic proposal for a U.S. State Department office to address anti-Muslim bias, after a Republican congresswoman used an Islamophobic slur against a Democratic colleague.
The House backed the bill in a party-line vote of 219-212. The bill, authored by Representative Ilhan Omar, would create a special envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia and include state-sponsored anti-Muslim violence in the department's annual human rights reports.
"We are in the midst of a staggering rise of anti-Muslim violence and discrimination around the world," Omar said on the House floor. "Islamophobia is global in scope and we must lead the global effort to address it."
The House vote comes a few weeks after video emerged showing first-term Republican lawmaker Lauren Boebert calling Omar, a Muslim second-term congresswoman who was born in Somalia, a member of a "jihad squad."
That comment led to calls by Democrats for a vote to strip Boebert of her committee assignments, as well as criticism by fellow Republican Representative Nancy Mace. Republicans have decried the bill, calling it rushed and partisan.
In introducing the debate, Rep. James McGovern, the Democratic chairperson of the House Rules Committee, cited surveys showing an uptick of anti-Muslim sentiment nationwide and around the world – and the need for an energetic U.S. response. McGovern said the House had arrived at this moment because a colleague has "told a completely fabricated story again and again that implies a Muslim colleague is a terrorist ... just because they are Muslim."
Those actions are "a stain on this entire institution," he said, without naming Boebert, the freshman lawmaker from Colorado. "This House is better than the worst actions of a few here."
The bill is unlikely to advance in the Senate. But the ordeal provides yet another window onto the state of affairs in the Republican Party left behind by former U.S. President Donald Trump, almost a year after his supporters stormed the Capitol trying to overturn Joe Biden's election. Republican leaders are unwilling or unable to publicly admonish their own, particularly those allied with Trump, even when their everyday rhetoric borders on racist hate speech.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday's vote will not be the last word from the Democratic leaders on Boebert's behavior. But they have repeatedly said it's up to the Republican leadership to stand up to their most outspoken members who cross a line. The Democrats so far have refrained from more punitive actions of censuring Boebert or removing her committee assignments, as they have for other lawmakers – and as some Democrats wanted.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has not signaled any further steps.
McCarthy, R-Calif., has said he helped engineer a phone call between Boebert and Omar days after the Republican's remarks came under scrutiny.
And before the call, he said Boebert had apologized.
But her apology – "to anyone in the Muslim community I offended" – fell short for some lawmakers.
Rather than smoothing tensions, the call between Boebert and Omar ended abruptly. Boebert refused Omar's request for a public apology, and said Omar hung up on her. Omar said in a statement that she ended an unproductive call.
Boebert set off the firestorm around Thanksgiving after a video posted to Facebook showed her telling constituents about an interaction with Omar at a House elevator.
As she stepped on the elevator, Boebert said she spotted Omar. "Well, she doesn't have a backpack," Boebert recalled saying, an apparent reference to a suicide bomb. "We should be fine."
Omar, one of just a few Muslims in Congress and the only lawmaker who regularly wears a religious headscarf, said the scene never happened.
It wasn't the first time Boebert, the conservative newcomer, has tested the rules of civility.
Last month, Boebert derided Omar as a member of the "jihad squad" during the House debate to censure another Republican, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. He was being reprimanded for having tweeted an animated video depicting the slaying of another member of the so-called "squad" of liberal lawmakers, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Gosar, shortly after the censure vote, reposted the offensive video to his Twitter account.
In many ways, the Republican lawmakers are taking a page from Trump's playbook. On the campaign trail and in the White House, Trump routinely mocked minority groups, derided certain African countries with a vulgarity and slapped a ban on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries as one of his early executive actions as president.
Trump has seen Omar as a main target for racist attacks even after leaving the highest office in the White House. In the recent row, between two female representatives, Trump publicly defended Boebert, saying that Omar is the person who has to apologize for "marrying her brother, committing large-scale immigration and election fraud, wishing death to Israel, and for essentially abandoning her former country." He added the claim Somalia "doesn't even have a government," even though the country does have a functioning, albeit weak, government.
"Exactly what she'd like to see for the United States!" Trump said in the lie-riddled statement.
Trump has been denounced previously for his disgusting" and "shameful" remarks on Omar. In 2019 than-President Trump criticized the Muslim lawmaker after comments surfaced of her talking about the Islamophobia Muslims faced in the post-Sept. 11 era.
The video pulls a snippet of Omar's speech last month to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in which she described the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as "some people did something," as well as news footage of the hijacked planes hitting the twin towers. Trump tweeted, "WE WILL NEVER FORGET!"
Neither Trump's tweet nor the video includes her full quote or the context of her comments.
Omar, who arrived in the U.S. as a child and now serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke during Tuesday's debate about the bill, saying that as a country founded on religious liberty, the U.S. must fight against religious persecution of Muslims an others worldwide.
"We must lead the global effort," she said. "As Americans we should stand united against all forms of bigotry."
Republican opponents said the bill was too quickly produced, failed to fully define "Islamophobia" and shouldn't provide special protections for Muslims separate from other religious groups.
Omar has been a target for anti-Muslim hatred inside U.S. House of Representatives for long time. In June this year she revealed threat messages she started to receive after a dispute with Democratic lawmakers in the legislature. Omar said she was getting audio threats from unknown individual who threatened to kill her and blamed lawmaker of being "terrorist."
“Muslims are terrorists. And she is a raghead n*****. And every anti-American communist piece of s*** that works for her, I hope you get what’s f***ing coming for you,” the man's voice could be heard saying.
The messages came after a group of Democratic members launched a major crackdown on the Minnesota representative following her comments over "unthinkable atrocities" committed by the United States, Israel, the Taliban and others.
A Jewish Democratic group supporting Israel has publicly rebuked Omar for comparing the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban when discussing war crimes. Her latest remarks led to a rare public letter of disapproval from 12 House Democrats, who wrote that "equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided."
In the Twitter post, Omar said that "every time I speak out on human rights I am inundated with death threats" after she grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken over accountability for victims of crimes against humanity at a House hearing.
One Republican, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, brought up past statements by Omar that he said were anti-Semitic and supportive of terrorism.
Shortly after taking office in 2019, Omar, who has been critical of Israel, tweeted that some lawmakers are only supportive of the Jewish state for the fundraising money.
Democrats moved to strike Perry's comments from the record as violating House rules.
Boebert did not speak during the debate.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., co-sponsor of the anti-Islamophobia bill, said of Omar: "She has been subjected to relentless attacks and horrifying threats not just from her fellow Americans, but even within the halls of Congress. And enough is enough."
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.