Rep. Ilhan Omar fears for family’s safety after barrage of threats over Israel criticism
One of the few Muslim members of Congress told NBC News she feels her life may be in danger after being inundated with threats since a terror attack sparked the war in Gaza, reflecting wider fears among Muslim Americans who feel they are being targeted to a degree unseen since the days after 9/11.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., whose family fled Somalia’s civil war before emigrating to the United States, unequivocally condemned the Hamas attack, but her longstanding criticism of Israel's policy toward Palestinians and Washington’s support for the country has made her a lightning rod.
The U.S. Capitol Police and the House Sergeant at Arms briefed Omar and other progressive lawmakers critical of Israel — including the only other Muslim woman in Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who is Palestinian American — over potential threats last week, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the meeting.
Voicemails shared with NBC News include profanity-laced death threats calling Omar a “terrorist Muslim.” Another claimed a vigilante group spying on the congresswoman and “your children” had obtained “all your addresses and handed them out to rapists.”
“I’m from a militant group,” the male caller of a third voicemail claimed. “I can’t wait ‘till our group sees you one day and I can rip your f------ rag off your head... I hope the Israelis kill every f------ one of you.”
In a statement, Omar said she and other Muslim Americans have been victims of a “dishonest smear” that equates criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with support for Hamas, which has created an environment where threats proliferate.
“It directly endangered my life and that of my family, as well as subjected my staff to traumatic verbal abuse simply for doing their jobs,” Omar said. “More importantly, it threatens the millions of American Muslims.”
“This toxic language and imagery has real-world consequences,” Omar continued. “House Republican leaders stay silent as their party unleashes these toxic attacks and refuse to hold extremists in their ranks accountable. Since assuming office, two men have pleaded guilty to threatening to kill me. This is very real. I fear for my children and have to speak to them about remaining vigilant because you just never know.”
Omar, Tlaib, and other members of the “Squad” of progressive lawmakers have long been targets of conservative media, and they were frequently singled out by former President Donald Trump.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., has called them the “Jihad squad,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., dubbed them the “Hamas caucus,” and the official campaign arm of House Republicans have labeled the pair “Hamas spox,” Washington slang for a spokesperson.
They have also faced official criticism from their own party and Jewish leaders. The White House called other “Squad” members’ initial response to the Hamas attack “repugnant,” while Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., said Wednesday that it was “truly disturbing” that members of Congress would take the word of Hamas over Israel after Tlaib repeated claims that Israel bombed a Gaza hospital. (U.S. officials believe it was a misfired Palestinian rocket, but questions remain.)
Tlaib is now facing a censure motion from Republicans over the comments.
The security briefing last Thursday afternoon, organized in part by House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, also included Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., Cori Bush, D-Mo., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Delia Ramirez, D-Ill.
Due to persistent threats, several of those members have long been assigned security details, which is highly unusual for members of Congress outside top leadership roles. But Omar’s office said the threats in the past 10 days have been worse than ever.
In one voicemail left for her office, a male caller says, “I wish that someone would kill you and put you in hell.”
Another male caller says she should “drop dead for supporting f------ terrorists.”
“You work for this country,” the caller continues. “Pull your f------ head out of your f------ turban-wearing ass, and f------ see the light of day, you dumbass f------ terrorist-supporting f------ piece of s---.”