Why are Muslims divided on Rep. Ilhan Omar?

 

This piece is the first of two-part series on American Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, in which I try to explain why her politics divide Muslims. In the next one, I will explain why some Muslims, especially non-Islamists, are still supporting her. So stay tuned 

Ilhan Omar photosRep. Ilhan Omar. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

 

The supporters of US Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar cry racism, discrimination, and character assassination against her detractors, but despite this relentless defense, these supporters have failed to shake off the negative image she has projected not just among many Americans, but among many Muslims inside and outside the US.

Back in January this year, nearly all Muslims, myself included, were delighted to see the first Somali hijabi Muslim refugee, Ilhan Omar, elected in the American Congress. Many of us, however, did not expect that the Muslim Congresswoman would create endless controversies, and even attack another Muslim woman who dared to ask her a question in a Muslim conference.

At a Muslim Caucus Education Collective’s conference in Washington, Ani Osman -Zonneveld, a non-Hijabi progressive Muslim urged Ilhan Omar to state her views on female genital mutilation (FGM). “I’d like to know if you will be able to make a statement against FGM, because that’s an issue in Detroit,” she said. “It would be really powerful if the two Muslim congresswomen, yourself and Rashida (Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan) would make a statement on this issue.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar replied that the question was “appalling” and “frustrating” and that “she was quite disgusted by the question.” Outraged, Ilhan later turned to other Muslim panellists (who enthusiastically applauded her response), and said: “I want to make sure the next time someone is in an audience that they ask us the proper questions they will probably ask any member of Congress or any legislator or any politician.”

Moreover, Ilhan’s fan club rushed to praise her reply. One of her top supporters, Mehdi Hasan,tweeted: “Most Muslims born and brought up in the West – including, erm, me – have been waiting our whole lives for a politician who is Muslim to get elected and deliver an answer like this to the ‘usual’ Qs. I felt like cheering as I listened to Ilhan Omar deliver this powerful riposte.”  Not one of these supporters, however, spared a thought for Osman-Zonneveld, who is also a Muslim, guilty only of asking an innocent question in a polite manner. Moreover, the question was relevant and highlighted how FGM remains a problem, despite legislation Ilhan alluded to in her condescending reply. Some studies suggest that, incredibly, there are 44,293women at risk of FGM in Ilhan Omar’s state of Minnesota alone.

To understand why Ilhan Omar snapped at a fellow Muslim, we first have to understand who is she and what she stands for. Ilhan Omar is a new-generation Islamist Muslim who uses her faith to define her political identity. She quotes passages from the Quran in her tweets, and proudly wears the hijab as a sign of devotion to orthodox Islam. But then she cherry-picks some aspects of liberalism, such as opposing the death penalty, favouring abortion, and supporting gay and transgender rights.

Such a liberal-orthodox mix aims to appeal to progressive Westerners and fit in with their anti-Trump agenda, while maintaining popularity among her Islamist base. It was ironic to see Ilhan, a supposedly orthodox Hijabi Muslim, support abortion, which Islam view as murder, and which is only sanctioned in exceptional circumstances. This stance favouring abortion is in strong contrast to her opposition of the death penalty, which Omar describes as heinous, despite  several Quranic verses that describe it as just punishment for heinous crimes.

Politically, Rep. llhan Omar deliberately blurs the difference between Islam as a faith and Islamism as an ideology. She has opted to give an interview to controversial outlets, such as Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera, in which she described US relations with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates (Qatar opponents) as “immoral”. Ilhan Omar is now openly backed by variousIslamistgroups inside and outside America, including the ruling party in Turkey. Turkish president Resep Tayyip Erdoganmet Omar before he and his foreign minister congratulated her on her election wins. Later, Erdogan’s pro-government news outlets encouraged readers to donateto Omar’s campaign fund.

Ilhan Omar does not directly support radical Islamist groups, but, like other Islamists, she refuses to admit the ideological link between Islamism and radicalism. Ilhan prefers to blame oppression and American policies – a common line shared by Islamists and Western progressives. Those who confront certain literalistic Interpretations of Islamic theology that sanction terrorism and other barbaric practices such as the FGM issue Ani Osman -Zonneveld raised can be a thorn in  the flesh to both camps.

It is no surprise that Ilhan Omar snapped at a progressive Muslim. True progressive Muslims are reformers who challenge their own communities to ask difficult questions about faith and society. They stand up and oppose instances of social Islamism that sanction misogyny, barbarism, and regression. Progressive Muslims reject tribalism and identity politics, and instead welcome integration and openness. They do not indulge in victimhood and self-righteous attitudes, and prefer to address the flaws of their own communities, instead of playing the victim card. More importantly, progressive Muslims do not cherry-pick reforms; they openly advocate modern interpretations of Islamic texts on every aspect of life, from the death penalty to the mandatory hijab.

Ilhan’s attitude towards Osman-Zonneveld is in harmony with the views of another progressive member of the Congress, Democrat Ayanna Pressley,who said recently: “We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice.”

Yes, for Ilhan Omar and her fellow “Progressive Squad”, anyone who dares to challenge them is bad and wrong. They advocate diversity in America, but reject diversity within their own communities.

Ilhan Omar is not a liberal Muslim with a headscarf; she is an Islamist with a deceptive liberal cover that aims to alienate real progressive Muslims, and present herself and her Islamist clans as useful voices in the fight against US president Donald Trump. But progressive and reformist Muslims will not go away. They will continue to be vocal and challenge trendy Islamist charlatans such as Ilhan Omar. Furthermore, they will not be intimidated by Western progressive who misguidedly opt to believe in Ilhan’s farcical progressiveness. The fight for the soul of Islam is bigger than Ilhan Omar, and will continue, despite her snappy condescending manner.

 

 

Posted in Islam | 21 Comments

This Week in Egypt: Week 36-2019 ( September 2-8)

Top Headlines

  • US State department has approved the release of $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt
  • Egypt’s Homeland Security kills six militants in New Valley
  • Son of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi dies aged 25
  • Egypt court jails Muslim Brotherhood figures for life over prison break
  • Egyptian banks to disburse interest from Suez Canal saving certificate
  • Egyptian government to replace tuk tuks with mini-vans
  • Egypt had enough strategic rice reserves and will not import rice this financial year

 

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Egypt scraps customs dollar; price to depend on CBE exchange rate
  • Housing project for Egypt’s New Administrative Capital employees to be complete March 2020
  • Egypt’s cotton exports see 218.8% increase during Q3 2018/2019

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egypt to launch programme to replace tuk-tuks with minivans
  • Interest from Suez Canal saving certificates to be disbursed Thursday
  • Delisting owners of two of Egypt’s largest pharmacy chains from Health Ministry’s list raises contraversy
  • Egypt’s Dar El-Iftaa says freezing women’s eggs is permissible if certain conditions are met

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Reports

  • US waives human rights rules to send military aid to Egypt. Jack Detsch
  • A landmark 2018 natural-gas deal between Egypt and Israel faces legal challenges and concerns about security threats. Jared Malsin
  • Crucial infrastructure deal brings Israel closer to gas export to Egypt. Eytan Halon
  • A Ramses II obelisk will decorate Cairo’s famous Tahrir Square. Nevine El-Aref

From Twitter

 

Tourism

  • 10 Reasons why Egypt is one of the most fascinating countries in the world.

Plus

  • Poisonous Roses selected to represent Egypt at the 2020 Oscars
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This Week in Egypt: Week 35-2019 (August 26- Sept 1)

Again, I am grateful to my friends who helped me compiling this week’s news and reports. I am also grateful to my followers and their supportive messages. It has been tough few weeks with sickness but hopefully the worst is over. I feel truly blessed by your support. 

Top Headlines

  • U.S. President Trump holds a bilateral meetingwith Egyptian President Sisi on the sidelines of the G7 summit
  • Egypt’s foreign minister phones Lebanese PM on escalation in south Lebanon
  • Egypt’s Sisi meets with Emir of Kuwait for joint cooperation talks
  • Egypt’s top prosecutor signs MoU with Kuwaiti counterpart for judicial cooperation
  • Moody’s keeps Egypt’s credit rating at B2
  • Hoping for release, families of imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood youth offer to stay out of politics, make hefty donations to state

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Read

And

  • Remarks by President Trump and President El-Sisi of Egypt before bilateral meeting | Biarritz, France

Video

From Twitter

Interview

Plus

  • Islamic new year to be on Saturday
  • Egypt’s birth rate declines while deaths increase for 2018

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 34-2019 ( Aug 19-25)

 I am deeply grateful for my friend J who kindly volunteered to compile this week’s Egypt’s news and reports, as I am currently sick and unable to do the work. 

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s Sisi arrives in France for G7 summit
  • Egypt cuts interest rates for the first time in six months after inflation Relief
  • Next meeting on Ethiopian Renaissance Dam postponed until September, negotiations unfruitful so far
  • Egypt arrests son of Abbas’s adviser
  • Young Muslim Brothers serving long jail terms in Egypt have demanded the group’s leadership resigns
  • Time picks Egypt’s Red Sea Mountain Trail as one of World’s Greatest Places 2019

 

G7 summit in Biarritz 

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

  • Egypt cuts interest rates for the first time in six months after inflation relief
  • Next meeting on Ethiopian Renaissance Dam postponed until September, negotiations unfruitful so far
  • Egypt raises investments in Sinai by 75% in 2019-20
  • Japanese investments in Egypt hits $ 880 million, increases by 74.3% in FY 2017/2018

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

  • Sisi meets African presidents to coordinate stances during G7 summit
  • Egypt is determined to uncover truth of Italian student’s murder: Sisi tells Italy’s PM
  • Egypt’s Media council blocks two websites for spreading fake news about Huawei

Good Reports and Read

Interview

  • Mohamed Salah is ‘happy at Liverpool’; less so with the Egyptian FA. CNN

From Twitter

 

Plus

  • Egypt’s media watchdog to investigate TV host for ‘eyesore’ comments about overweight people.
  • A little-known gem of world cinema from Egypt
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This Week in Egypt; Week 33-2019 ( Aug 12-18)

Top Headlines 

  • Egypt hosts Sudanese faction peace talks
  • Egypt took part in the signing of historic power-sharing deal between Sudanese army and civilian forces
  • FBI wants to interrogate an Egyptian man in Brazil, citing Al-Qaeda links
  • Egypt made history by reaching the final of the men’s U-19 World Handball Championship for the first time 
  • Egypt’s unemployment rate drops to 7.5 percent in Q2 2019

 Main Headlines

 Monday

  • FBI wants to interrogate an Egyptian man in Brazil, citing Al-Qaeda links
  • Egypt hosts Sudanese faction peace talks peace talks
  • Egypt targets daily crude oil production to hit 690,000 barrels by end of 2019
  • Female police are deployed at metro stations to confront harassment during Eid

Tuesday

  • Egyptian Mubarak’s era business tycoon Hussein Salem died in Spain at the age of 85
  • Egypt Air suspends flights to Hong Kong as serious disruptions continue at its international airport
  • Transport minister promises overhaul of Egypt’s railways starting 2020

Wednesday

  • Natural gas production at Zohr, the largest gas-field in the Mediterranean Sea, more than tripled in the first half this year
  • Egyptian lawyer files a lawsuit over J-Lo’s garments at its North Coast concert

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt’s PM heads to Khartoum for constitutional declaration inking signing ceremony
  • Egypt’s non-petroleum exports hit $13 billion in the first half of 2019
  • Grain imports coming from Russia are subjected to quarantine checks to ensure they are free from any harmful substances

 Saturday 

Sunday 

 Reports

From Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sports

  • Egypt made history by reaching the final of the men’s U-19 World Handball Championship for the first time

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 32-2019 (Aug 5-11)

Top Headlines

  • Massive car explosion outside Egypt’s National Cancer Institute in Cairo
  • Egypt identifies perpetrator behind Monday’s car explosion
  • Egyptian security forces killed 17 jihadists after hospital attack
  • Egypt’s inflation at 4-year low of 8.7%
  • Cairo hosts delegation of Sudan Revolutionary Front
  • Egypt ‘legalizes’ over 1100 churchesbuilt without permits
  • Egypt’s banks to pay back dues of Suez Canal certificates in September

 Main Headlines

 Monday

  • Massive car explosion outside Egypt’s National Cancer Institute in Cairo
  • Deadly Cairo car bombing a “terrorist incident”, says Egypt’s president Sisi
  • Egypt says Islamist militants were behind a blast that killed at least 20 people in central Cairo

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • Security forces killed 17 terrorists in raids following Monday’s car bomb
  • Cairo hosts a delegation of Sudan Revolutionary Front
  • Everton fan admits racially abusing Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

Saturday

  • Pop-star Jennifer Lopez’s concert in Egypt went ahead as planned, despite calls by anti-Israel groups to scrap the show over her appearance in Israel
  • Egypt jails American “traveller”, saying she criticized the government on Facebook
  • Egypt’s banks to pay back dues of Suez Canal certificates in September
  • Egypt’s agricultural exports rise to 4.6 M tons

Sunday

Reports 

From Twitter

 

Travel

Photo Gallery

  • Jennifer Lopez rocks at her 1st concert in Egypt

 

 

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The EU must do more to fight the funding of Islamism across the continent

I wrote this piece for the European Parliament Magazine on Qatari-controlled, UK-based Al Rayan Bank, which continues to provide financial services to a series of Islamist and extremist groups blacklisted by other institutions, and the dangers of lax financial oversight by the EU and its Member State.

 

Al-Rayan-Qatar

via  NurPhoto 

For millions of ordinary Muslims, Al-Rayan is a beautiful Arabic word that means “luxuriant” or “plentiful”. For many Egyptians, however, Al-Rayan is a word that is linked to bitter memories of financial scams associated with the rise of social Islamism in the country.

A young Islamist businessman known as Ahmed Al-Rayan set up what he claimed to be a strictly Sharia-compliant investment scheme.

He succeeded in convincing Egyptian depositors to withdraw their money from state banks and invest it in his own company, which later proved to be a ponzi scheme built on the exploitation of religious piety.

Eventually, his company went bankrupt and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1988.

My mother was a victim of a similar scheme, “al-Sherif”, after she succumbed to social pressure and fatwas that claimed state banks were un-Islamic. She eventually lost most of her inheritance.

Now Britain has its own Al-Rayan moment. Although it is not a Ponzi scheme, it is still a questionable business.

 

Continue reading here

 

 

 

 

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Twitter Thread: Fatima Alasrar Versus Rob Malley on Yemen

The president and C.E.O. of the International Crisis Group, Robert Malley, wrote piece in the New York Times, arguing that America should talk to the Iranian-backed Yemeni militant group Houthis. The piece is so one-sided and biased. I am glad that American-Yemeni policy analyst Fatima Alasrar has wrote a rebuttal twitter thread, which I decided to share it in this blog. It is disappointing to that Rob Malley and his team in Crisis Group fail to respond to all valid points mentioned in Fatima’s Twitter thread. I urge them to reconsider. Independent analysts have a responsibility towards their readers and should not take sides while analysing conflicts and civil wars.

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 31 ( July 29-Aug 4)

Top Headlines

  • Kushner meets Egypt’s Sisi for Israeli-Palestenian peace plan talks
  • Egypt: Sinai will ‘never be’ part of Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan
  • Greece and Egypt urge Turkey to stop aggression in eastern Mediterranean
  • Egypt hands Ethiopia its vision for the Renaissance Dam
  • A car crash sparks deadly explosion killing at least 19 in Cairo
  • Egyptian government is piloting a new health insurance system in Port Said
  • Divers uncover ancient temple submerged within the ‘Egyptian Atlantis’ where Cleopatra was crowned

 Main Headlines

Monday

  • S. State Department cleared a trio of weapon sales for Egypt, South Korea and Canada
  • Military drills between Egypt, US, UAE continue in the Red Sea
  • Egypt Air’s newest aircraft, the Dreamliner Boeing 787-9 has operated the longest trip in the world powered by sustainable fuel

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday 

Saturday

Sunday

  • A car crash sparks deadly explosion killing at least 19 in Cairo
  • Egypt’s FM Shoukry heads to Baghdad to attend tripartite meeting with Iraqi and Jordanian counterparts
  • Egypt to introduce “tourism ethics” in primary education curricula
  • Egypt displays restoration of Tutankhamen gilded coffin

Reports

From Twitter

 

 

Sports

Travel

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 30 ( July 22-28)

Top Headlines

  • British airways resumes flights to Cairo
  • Immigration minister says controversial statement taken out of context
  • Egypt has received 930 surplus US mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs)
  • Brotherhood member reveals ’embezzlement’ among group’s fugitives in Turkey
  • Egypt demands ‘practical measures’ from Ethiopia to reach agreement on Renaissance Dam
  • Egypt’s annual water share declines by 5 billion cubic meter
  • Egyptian Swimmer Farida Osman Secures Bronze Medal at World Championships

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday 

Friday

Saturday 

  • Egypt’s defense minister heads to Washington to talk with his US counterpart
  • Immigration Minister says circulated video of her threatening critics taken out of context
  • Civil aviation delegation inspects Sharm El-Sheikh Airport as resumption of charter flights is within reach

Sunday

Reports

  • Shadow war: Egypt and Iran battle for influence in Gaza.Al-Monitor
  • Egypt courts Chinese clothing makers seeking tariff refuge.Ahmed Kamel
  • How Egypt conquered croquet.  The Economist

From Twitter

 

 

Sports

  • Egyptian Swimmer Farida Osman Secures Bronze Medal secures bronze medal at World Championships
  • Handball: Brave Egypt lose 35-33 to France in U21 World Championship semis

Plus

  • ‪“Be part of the change”: Freska campaign to ban plastic reaches Egypt’s North Coast
  • 10 new Egyptian-made, natural gas-fueled buses hit streets of Cairo
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