A school board member gave a graduation speech in which she told a mainly-immigrant class of high schoolers that they were entering a world filled with “racism, extreme versions of individualism and capitalism, [and] white supremacy,” and encouraged them to remember their “jihad” and reject the concepts of objectivity and neutrality.
Fairfax County school board member Abrar Omeish gave the keynote address at the commencement for Justice High School in Falls Church, Virginia on June 7.
The ceremony began with a ceremony in which JROTC military cadets were the only people at the graduation who wore masks.
The class president then led what she called “the nation’s anthem,” referring to the pledge of allegiance, in which she said the U.S. was “one nation under Allah.” Omeish was out of view of the camera, but a picture from another recent graduation shows her as the only person without her hand over her heart during the pledge.
The president of the student government then introduced Omeish by noting that she was “Virginia co-chair for the Bernie Sanders campaign” and that her father, Esam Omeish, was a “leader and a board member of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center” who “raised his daughter to be an outspoken woman.”
Dar al-Hijrah is a mosque attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers as well as the shooter in the 2009 attack on Fort Hood. Its imam was Anwar al-Awlaki, who President Barack Obama ordered killed by drone strike for plotting terrorism for Al Queda. Omeish noted that her father was in attendance at the graduation.
Her address seemed to herald the schools’ roles as political indoctrination centers. “You all kicked off the first ever black history month assembly to ensure that we confront our history and answer honestly about the ills of our past,” she said.
She lauded a teacher who used her access to children to encourage them to become political activists, and said that demands by students were an effective way to change school policy.
“Huge shout out to [the class president who called her a “role model”] and Ms. Corey Haynes, a teacher, for her leadership in supporting and empowering students despite the pushback. Let’s hear it for them, guys. They empowered your voice. Your model, Justice Class of 2021, moved the superintendent of the 10th largest school division in the country to follow your lead to teach with courage. And you pushed to incorporate that in the school schedule because you understand that social justice is only political for those who can afford to ignore it.”
“You understand that neutral is another word for complicit,” she said.
Much of the speech appeared designed to signal that she is unrepentant for a recent tweet in which she called Israel a colonizing state that “desecrates the Holy Land” and “kills Palestinians.”
She indicated that she feels similarly about America, saying “let us acknowledge the stolen land of the Manahoac people,” referring to a Virginia native American tribe.
She lamented the “child forced to question and hate the faith they love because of bullying,” frequently slipping into Arabic in her speech.
Some of her fellow members on the all-Democrat school board have offered tepid criticism of her comments on Israel, but in her graduation speech, she encouraged graduates not to let that kind of thing bother them.
“The world may try to quiet you by deciding for you what’s cool, what’s weird, what is or isn’t objective. It may try to convince you that what you hold dear is too different to be accepted. But who gets to decide? You are walking into a world that will be uncomfortable when you seek to cause good trouble. And that may seek to intimidate you or make you think the truth is controversial,” she said.
“Every part of your being may scream in rage at the ways others have wronged you,” but “let compassion for your fellow human beings, not anger or rage — and believe me this is hard to do — fuel you,” she said.
“No matter how many haters emerge, I’m sure you’ve encountered them yourselves, and believe me they’re a sign you’re unsettling the status quo towards justice. Just consider them your cheerleaders of another breed,” she said.
In her introduction, the student leader said Omeish faced “hatred for speaking truth to power about the Palestinian experience” but “continues to overcome and be an example so that young leaders like us will do the same.”
The introduction from a student also stated that “two years ago [Omeish’s] civil rights were violated by the police due to her appearance. she was attacked and discriminated against.” That entire incident is on video, which shows that an officer pulled over her car after watching her run a red light from a distance, from which her appearance was not visible. She repeatedly refused to show her license and then refused to get out of the car, leading to her arrest.
Omeish’s speech also focused on “equity,” a concept in K-12 education referring to forced equal outcomes. Fairfax County recently watered down the admissions criteria for its top-ranked STEM magnet school, Thomas Jefferson High School For Science and Technology, because too many Asians performed well on entrance exams that tested whether the students knew STEM.
“Our successes are not worth celebrating until we all come along,” Omeish said at the graduation celebration.
In 2017, the school board voted to rename the school from J.E.B. Stuart High School to Justice High School, discarding the results of its own survey, which found that community members wanted to rename it to simply Stuart.
A poll this month of Fairfax County voters found that most do not support schools being used to push racial activism like critical race theory. The survey also found that majorities of parents in all political parties oppose the elimination of advanced academics in the name of equity.