For my last column of the semester, I wanted to bring attention to a developing story. If you’ve taken a look at the political side of social media or read any print newspapers, perhaps you may have heard about a recent confrontation between U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
If you’ve haven’t heard of this, here’s the SparkNotes version — at a recent event, Boebert bragged that she knew Omar, one of the first Muslim Americans to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, wasn’t a terrorist because, upon entering an elevator with her, she noticed that Omar “doesn’t have a backpack,” according to CNN. Boebert continued to claim that she herself said, “Look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.” Omar claims this elevator incident never occurred, but that is somewhat beside the point.
Amazingly, Boebert wasn’t even done there. A few days after this back-and-forth, Boebert and Omar had a private phone call, presumably to attempt to make amends. But even this was too much for Boebert, where she claims on Twitter to apologize to “anyone in the Muslim community [she] offended” with her comment about Omar, which notably leaves out the specific person deserving of an apology: Rep. Ilhan Omar herself. According to npr.org, when Omar pointed out to the media how the phone call was unproductive, as one could have predicted, Boebert decided to lash out and claim that she would put “America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, [Omar] can’t say the same thing.”
To anyone with a basic moral compass, this is utterly shameful. Even I was surprised with how far Boebert would go to demonize Omar. After the infamous Marjorie “Jewish Space Lasers” Taylor Greene incident, it really takes a lot to surprise me, but Boebert managed to. I will not explain why calling a Muslim part of the “jihad squad” because of her faith and claiming she sides with terrorists is racist and Islamophobic. Ironically, between Boebert and Omar, one of them does in fact sympathize with terrorists. Alas, it wasn’t Omar who coordinated with some of the planners of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, now was it?
In any case, these actions by Boebert aren’t just cruel or bigoted, although they very much are those things — they’re dangerous. Hours after the phone call between these congresswomen was made public knowledge, Omar took to the podium to share a voicemail she received that day from an anonymous man. That voicemail was not just a message, but a death threat using truly vile and inhumane language. Sadly, this is just one of many death threats that numerous progressive lawmakers have received in recent years. In particular, U.S. Reps. Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have faced the brunt of these conservative hate mobs.
Islamophobia is alive and well in the United States. For a reality check, guess who said this about two decades ago: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam … That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.” If you guessed George W. Bush — yes, the one that sanctioned the invasion of Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians — you’d be right. It’s truly frightening when a president with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Muslims on his hands would be called a liberal pansy by the modern Republican right, but this shows the drastic shift of our politics in the past two decades.
Don’t be fooled by those that claim the comments made by Boebert and those similar are harmless. When you’re a public speaker with a massive audience like, oh, I don’t know, the former president of the United States or an elected official in Congress, you are held to a higher standard, just like any other celebrity. When you engage in reckless fearmongering, demagogues will claim it’s “just words” and gild their language in “free speech” rhetoric. The reality is that speech is always peaceful — until it’s not.
No one is physically injured by the act of speaking, but just because you hired a hitman to do your dirty work doesn’t mean you’re not guilty of murder. Dangerous politicians, such as Boebert and Greene, are truly an existential threat to the democratic republic that we inhabit. Although they may claim that leftists are terrorist sympathizers, I can only imagine the genocidal rhetoric that would have come from them if it were Muslims that invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Eleanor Gully is a senior triple-majoring in French, economics and philosophy, politics and law.