Editor’s note: Rep. Ilhan Omar is a first-term Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, one of two Muslim women in Congress. Her roughly 20-minute speech at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet in California on March 23 centered on the challenges and prejudice that American Muslims face. A Fox News commentator and the New York Post picked up on one phrase from her speech — “after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something” — and President Donald Trump himself tweeted a video clip out Friday evening sequencing Omar speaking about 9/11 with footage from the attacks on the World Trade Center. His tweet has been viewed more than 10 million times. After Omar received death threats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took steps to ensure Omar’s safety. (One note: CAIR was founded in 1994, not after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but grew in size afterward.) Here’s a transcript of the key section.
Muslims for a really long time in this country have been told that there is a privilege, that there is a privilege that we are given, and it might be taken away. We are told that we should be appropriate, we should go to school, get an eduction, raise our children and not bother anyone, not make any kind of noise. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable — be a good Muslim. But no matter how much we have tried to be the best neighbor, people have always worked on finding a way to not allow for every single civil liberty to be extended to us. So the truth is, you can go to school and be a good student. You can listen to your dad and mom and become a doctor. You can have that beautiful wedding that makes mom and dad happy. You can buy that beautiful house. But none of that stuff matters if you one day show up to the hospital and your wife, or maybe yourself, is having a baby, and you can’t have the access that you need because someone doesn’t recognize you as fully human.
It doesn’t matter how good you were if you can’t have your prayer mat and take your 15-minute break to go pray in a country that was founded on religious liberty. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you one day find yourself in a school where other religions are talked about, but when Islam is mentioned, we are only talking about terrorists. And if you say something, you are sent to the principal’s office. So to me, I say, raise hell; make people uncomfortable.
Because here’s the truth — here’s the truth: 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. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange, that I am going to try to make myself look pleasant. You have to say, “This person is looking at me strange. I am not comfortable with it. I am going to go talk to them and ask them why.” Because that is a right you have.
... I say you can’t hate up close. You can’t hate up close. Any time you have an opportunity to go talk with someone, the chances of them hating you lessen. So that is a practice we all should adopt.