Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to serve in the US Congress has been a lightning rod for criticism since her election in November. She made brief remarks about Islamophobia at an event in March, immediately in the aftermath of a white-supremacist shooting that left 50 Muslim worshippers dead in New Zealand. The group she was addressing, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a Muslim civil liberties organization active on issues related to prejudice against people because of their beliefs. What she said was: “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”. See full remarks here. The major criticism of Rep. Omar in this instance was generated by individuals, groups and sympathetic press who cherry picked her remarks for a phase where they inferred she downplayed the actions of the terrorists on 9/11. On the contrary, she was again making the point that painting a group of people with a broad brush isn’t fair, right, or just. We in our culture need to set the record straight.
Let’s take my own situation for example. I’m a lifelong Catholic, a Christian, and I teach and offer talks in a variety of venues large and small. Should I preface each public forum with an apology for the horrible historic abuses of the Catholic Church (see Inquisition, abuse coverup, etc.)? Should I acknowledge the many terrorists that are responsible for death and torture of countless people in the name of Christianity? If you follow the logic of Omar’s critics I should, but I don’t think so. I choose to support the good and try to count myself among the vast number of Christians who care for our fellow humans, our planet and other gifts our God has bestowed. I don’t pretend to understand it all – but I do see that painting everyone in a group numbering over a billion with a brush that only accurately paints a tiny percentage of that group just isn’t right, no more right than blaming the good people I see in the pews at church – or the good people I’ve met who are priests and religious for the historic crimes and mistakes of others. So, when you are tempted to “like” that post critical of Rep. Omar think about whether you would welcome others to lumping you in with the Timothy McVeigh’s of Christianity. The kind of false equivalency that leads to these conclusions is designed to divide people and plays to our lowest human tendencies; we all need to be better than that. Let me end this post with words Ilhan Omar shared with her audience that we all need to remember: “Love trumps hate”.
David Hoffman DPS CCE
Director of Healthcare Management
Associate Professor of Ethics and Health Policy