WASHINGTON — Rep. Ilhan Omar gave a polite verbal thrashing to an audience member who asked her to condemn female genital mutilation during a conference in DC on Tuesday, saying she’s “disgusted” by some of the questions asked solely of Muslim politicians.
The dispute came during a conference for Muslim Americans in politics, when Ani Osman-Zonneveld of Muslims for Progressive Values asked Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (who was scheduled but could not make the event) to condemn female genital mutilation.
“I am, I think, quite disgusted I think to be honest that as Muslim legislators, we are constantly being asked to waste our time speaking to issues that other people are not asked to speak to because ... the assumption exists that we somehow support and are for [the issue],” Omar responded.
“So I want to make sure that the next time someone is in an audience and is looking at me and Rashida and Abdul [El-Sayed, who ran for governor in Michigan last year] and [Virginia Delegate] Sam [Rasoul] that they ask us the proper question that they would probably ask any member of Congress, any legislator, any politician,” she added.
Omar said she was frustrated by the number of issues she and Tlaib are frequently asked about that aren’t brought up with other members of Congress.
“The question is posed: Could you and Rashida do this? And it’s like how often— should I make a schedule? Does this need to be on repeat every five minutes? Should I be like, so today I forgot to condemn al-Qaeda, so here’s the al-Qaeda one. Today I forgot to condemn FGM, so here we go. Today I forgot to condemn Hamas…You know, I mean, like, it is a very frustrating question that comes up,” she told the crowd, many of whom laughed and applauded as she spoke.
The Minnesota lawmaker went onto to credit her stance against the “abhorrent” act of FGM by noting four bills she has voted for both on the state and federal levels.
“So I would like, not just for you, but for everyone to know that if you want us to speak as politicians, American politicians, then you treat us as such,” Omar added.
More than 100 attendees applauded Omar’s comments during the inaugural Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy in Washington, DC. The two-day event is meant to encourage American Muslims to become civically engaged. Omar and four other panelists opened the series of events.
Some attendees traveled from as far as New York City to participate in the event that’s expected to host nearly 200 Muslim American politicians, advocates, and their supporters. Activist and author Debbie Almontaser called the line of questioning about FGM a distraction and attributed it to the “Islamophobic rhetoric” that undermines the leadership of American Muslims.
“So, as I was sitting in the audience, I have to say I was just flabbergasted that another American Muslim is actually asking the questions about FGM of another American Muslim woman who has been on the record to advocate on behalf of women all over the world,” said Almontaser.