Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar once again clarified her remarks about 9/11 on Sunday, days after a family member of a 9/11 victim alluded to the Muslim congresswoman at a remembrance ceremony.
Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Omar was asked by host Margaret Brennan if she knew why people would find remarks she made about 9/11—taken out of context in a speech about Muslim Americans’ civil liberties—offensive.
“9/11 was an attack on all Americans. It was an attack on all of us, and I certainly could not understand the weight of the pain that the families of the victims of 9/11 must feel,” Omar replied.
“It’s important for us to make sure that we are not forgetting the aftermath of 9/11, [when] many Americans found themselves now having their civil rights stripped from them, and so what I was speaking to was that as a Muslim, not only was I suffering as an American who was attacked on that day, but the next day I woke up as my fellow Americans were now treating me as suspect,” she continued.
Omar’s explanation has been consistent and clear since she first made the controversial remarks in April at the Center for American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The speech referred to the ways Muslim Americans are discriminated against and challenged those in the audience to bring their full selves to the public sphere. But one snippet of the speech—in which she said CAIR had been 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”—went viral after conservatives interpreted “some people did something” as minimizing 9/11. This included Donald Trump, who shared a video splicing the 9/11 attacks against Omar’s speech—the definition of politicizing a tragedy, were you looking for such an example.
The bad faith interpretation of Omar’s remarks clearly hasn’t abated in the months since. On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Nicholas Haros Jr., whose mother died in the World Trade Center, gave a speech on the anniversary while wearing a shirt with the words, “some people did something.” As if that weren’t enough, Haros made reference to the remarks in his speech.
“‘Some people did something,’ said a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota,” Haros said, according to The Hill. “Today I am here to respond to you exactly who did what to whom.”
That a terrorist organization rooted in radical Islamic ideology—Al Qaeda—engineered 9/11 is irrefutable. So, too, is the discrimination that many Muslim Americans (and frankly, more than a few non-Muslims) experienced after the attacks. According to the Pew Research Center, 93 Muslims were assaulted in the U.S. specifically because of their religion in 2001—a spike in hate crimes that wasn’t exceeded until 2016. (Bear in mind, too, that these numbers don’t reflect intimidation, verbal attacks, or other forms of harassment).
Omar has emphasized repeatedly that her perception of 9/11 is informed by both the fear she felt as an American and as a Muslim woman viewed as a threat by her fellow Americans—a point she made to USA Today in recent days:
“To some people, it’s easy for them to not think of me as an American, as someone who would not have the same feelings as they did as we were being attacked on American soil,” she said.