House Democrats introduce bill condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric
by Rehan Qamar
Following the recent anti-Muslim remarks made by Rep. Lauren Boebert toward Rep. Ilhan Omar, more than 400 congressional staff members are calling on House leaders to “categorically reject the incendiary rhetoric” in the workplace. At least 50 Muslim aides signed the letter, which is set to be released Wednesday. The letter comes days after Omar shared chilling voicemails and threats she received following Boebert’s Islamophobic comments.
“As passionate public servants, we each have chosen to pursue a career in public service to work towards a better future for our country,” the aides wrote in an open letter to the chamber’s leadership, NBC News reported. “However, the recent remarks by Rep. Boebert have heightened the climate of Islamophobia on the Hill, creating a feeling of anxiety and fear for many Muslim staff, our families, and communities, and leaving many of us to look to our congressional leaders for support.”
The letter though is not the only thing about which Congressional staff members are expressing their views. On Wednesday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced a resolution condemning Boebert’s Islamophobic rhetoric that would also remove her from her current committee assignments.
First reported by The Washington Post, the Pressley resolution is cosponsored by almost a dozen other House Dems, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Judy Chu, Jesús “Chuy” García, Gomez, Pramila Jayapal, Barbara Lee, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“For a Member of Congress to repeatedly use hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric and Islamophobic tropes towards a Muslim colleague is dangerous. It has no place in our society and it diminishes the honor of the institution we serve in,” Pressley said in a statement.
“Without meaningful accountability for that Member’s actions, we risk normalizing this behavior and endangering the lives of our Muslim colleagues, Muslim staffers and every Muslim who calls America home. The House must unequivocally condemn this incendiary rhetoric and immediately pass this resolution. How we respond in moments like these will have lasting impacts, and history will remember us for it,” Pressley added.
The call to remove Boebert from her committee assignments is not the first one of its kind. Democrats established the precedent earlier this year by removing Greene from her committee assignments after several videos depicted her advocating for conspiracy theories and racism.
“Congress cannot forgo accountability when a Member engages in hate speech that dehumanizes not only a colleague, but an entire people,” the co-sponsors said in a statement last week. “We cannot be complicit as members of this body, who swore an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, trample on the fundamental right of religious freedom.”
A press conference was held Wednesday to introduce and discuss the resolution with the public.
“There must be consequences for vicious workplace harassment and abuse that creates an environment so unsafe for colleagues and staff that it invites death threats against them,” Jayapal said. “There must be consequences for elected representatives who traffic in anti-Muslim and racist tropes that make all Muslims across the country less safe.”
While some Republican leaders supported taking action against Boebert, of course others did not agree with keeping their own accountable.
During a GOP conference meeting Wednesday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urged Republicans not to attack each other and to stay united, The Washington Post reported. Other lawmakers echoed that sentiment including Minority Whip Steve Scalise who suggested that Republicans would not take action. He used Boebert’s non-apology tweet as a reason, claiming it was good enough.
“I think when a member apologizes, you ought to respect and appreciate that and call for a higher standard, but it starts with a member themselves acknowledging they said something they shouldn’t and then move on,” Scalise said. “The fact [is] that on the Democrats’ side, they want to only go after Republicans. They don’t even ask their own members to apologize for things that were said, let alone go after their own members.”
Boebert’s non-apology came after videos were released in which she called Omar, a Muslim Congresswoman, “a terrorist” and member of the “Jihad squad,” not once but on at least two separate occasions.
“Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,” Boebert said in one incident, according to WCCO. “And I said, ‘Oh look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.’”
But of course, that’s not all. After an exchange with Omar, instead of apologizing Boebert continued her anti-Muslim rhetoric.
While it is unclear whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will take action after the resolution’s introduction, Democrats including Omar are confident she will take some sort of action against Boebert.
“I’ve had a conversation with the speaker, and I’m very confident that she will take decisive action next week,” Omar told CNN. “As you know, when I first got to Congress, I was worried that, you know, I wasn’t going to be allowed to be sworn in because there was a ban on the hijab. She promised me that she’d take care of it. She fulfilled that promise. She made another promise to me that she will take care of this, and I believe her.”
GOP House leadership has declined to take any action against Boebert.