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Ilhan Omar: The 9/11 row embroiling the US congresswoman

BBC – A Democratic congresswoman says she will not be silenced after facing a barrage of criticism over comments she made about the 9/11 attacks – including from Donald Trump.

The US president tweeted “WE WILL NEVER FORGET” alongside a video showing footage of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks spliced with a speech by Representative Ilhan Omar.

“Some people did something,” she is seen saying, in between footage of planes hitting the Twin Towers and people fleeing the buildings.

Republicans have accused her of downplaying the attacks, but Democrats have largely rallied to her defence, saying she had been quoted out of context and some accusing Mr Trump of inciting violence against her and Muslims. Here is how the row developed.

Who is Congresswoman Omar?

Omar won a Minnesota seat in the House of Representatives last November, becoming one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to the US Congress.

Her family originally came to the US as refugees from Somalia and she is the first congresswoman to wear the hijab.

Despite being a newcomer to Washington, this is not the first time Omar has made headlines.

She has been accused of anti-Semitism over comments she made about Israel and pro-Israel lobbyists. After being rebuked last month, including by Democrats, she apologised and said she was “listening and learning”.

The congresswoman has also raised the alarm about anti-Muslim rhetoric surrounding her, in response to a Republican poster that showed her alongside the Twin Towers.

Just last week, police arrested a 55-year-old man in New York state for allegedly calling her office with a graphic death threat in which he reportedly labelled her a “terrorist”.

What did she say?

The “some people did something” quote was from a speech Omar gave to a civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), on March 23.

In the 20-minute speech she discussed issues affecting the community like Islamophobia and the recent mosque attack in New Zealand.

The comments in Trump’s video were taken from a point she made about the treatment of US Muslims in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks:

“Here’s the truth. For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. Cair was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

A spokesman for Omar told the paper that she misspoke and meant to say the organisation’s size had doubled after the attacks.

 

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