At the start of Ramadan Friday, President Donald Trump issued a statement wishing “all Muslims a joyful Ramadan.” But far from benevolence, the statement quickly turned sour as it descended into a lecture for the Muslim world about violence, terrorism, “and the ideology that fuels it.”
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali American woman in the country to be elected lawmaker, responded with a message of her own, taking the president to task for his erroneous belief that the majority of the world’s Muslims do not disavow terrorism. “We do,” Omar scolded.
Trump’s message stated:
This year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of barbaric terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Egypt, acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan. Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology.
Omar responded to that by saying, “To liken recent terrorist attacks as the scourge of young Muslims who reject peace is not only willfully ignorant, it creates the very environment in which extremism flourishes and aligns with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: ‘Westerners do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr.’”
Here’s more of Omar’s message. Let’s hope some of it sinks in, particularly the part about educating people, starting with the president himself:
The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion and inclusion. The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people—it is the consequence of systemic alienation; people seek violent solutions when the process established for enacting change is inaccessible to them.
Bigotry is a product of ignorance and by educating people, we will move toward respect and understanding. If we are intentional about seeking out and understanding those we do not agree, or get along, with, we will begin to understand that none of us is truly different from the other. This change must come from the hearts and minds of us, the American people. Unity makes us strong, divided we will never succeed.
During this month long reflection, I pray for America, and for you, in hope that one day we all understand: Muslims are not your enemy.