Ilhan Omar, a Muslim US representative, said she fears for her family’s safety after receiving an onslaught of threats for criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
The Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota opened up in a statement about the increase in Islamophobic remarks and threats she has received, including threats directed at her family. NBC News first reported on the statement, which was later shared with the Guardian.
Omar said that she and other Muslim Americans have been negatively affected by a “dishonest smearing” that labels them as a threat for condemning Israel’s treatment of Palestine amid fighting in Gaza.
She specifically called out rhetoric used by several far-right lawmakers that equates her and other representatives with terrorist supporters.
“It directly endangered my life and that of my family, as well as subjected my staff to traumatic verbal abuse simply for doing their jobs,” Omar said in the statement, referring to the far-right rhetoric.
“More importantly, it threatens the millions of American Muslims.”
In one voicemail to Omar’s office, an anonymous caller said that an extremist group had been spying on the congresswoman and her children. The caller also claimed that they had obtained all of Omar’s addresses and “handed them out to rapists”, NBC News reported.
Another message called Omar a “terrorist Muslim”.
In a third voicemail shared with NBC News, a caller claimed to be part of a vigilante group and threatened to “rip your fucking rag off your head”, referring to Omar’s hijab.
“I hope the Israelis kill every fucking one of you,” the caller said.
“Since assuming office, two men have pleaded guilty to threatening to kill me,” Omar’s statement said. “This is very real. I fear for my children and have to speak to them about remaining vigilant because you just never know.”
In a broader statement on fighting in Gaza, Omar denounced Hamas.
Still, she and other progressive members of Congress who have been critical of Israel have faced criticism, particularly from far-right Republicans.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, labeled her fellow US House member Rashida Tlaib a member of the “Hamas Caucus” and a “terrorist sympathizer” in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter.
Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, is another Muslim representative in the Congress.
Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert also called Omar a member of the “jihad squad”.
Boebert, a Republican, has made Islamophobic remarks about Omar before, including suggesting that Omar was an explosive-carrying terrorist.
“This toxic language and imagery has real-world consequences,” Omar said in a statement. “House Republican leaders stay silent as their party unleashes these toxic attacks and refuse to hold extremists in their ranks accountable.”
US Capitol police officials and the House sergeant-at-arms briefed several representatives, including Omar and Tlaib, about potential threats last week.
“I hope this culture of prejudice ends,” Omar’s statement said. “Hate speech from political leaders has no place in our government. I will continue to advocate for all Americans, promote understanding despite differences, and promote inclusivity.”
Muslim and Palestinian Americans have expressed concern about the increase in harassment and threats many have received, with some comparing the amount to the days following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Religion News Service reported.
“This is reminding me a bit of how it felt post-9/11,” the Palestinian activist and policy analyst Laila El-Haddad said to RNS.
The latest fears follow the brutal killing of a six-year-old Palestinian boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, in Illinois in what police have charged as a hate crime.
Wadea’s family’s landlord broke into their apartment and stabbed the boy dozens of times on 14 October while allegedly shouting: “You Muslims must die!”