Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) on Thursday blasted her party’s leaders and declared that freedom of speech “doesn’t exist” for Muslim congresswomen after House Democratic leadership reprimanded her colleague and fellow progressive, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who is Muslim.
“Freedom of speech doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress. The benefit of the doubt doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress,” Tlaib wrote in a tweet blasted out Thursday afternoon.
“House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color,” she added.
Tlaib was elected in 2018 at the same time as Omar, a Somali-born former refugee, and together the two became the first Muslim congresswomen.
Freedom of speech doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress. The benefit of the doubt doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress. House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) June 10, 2021
Tlaib’s apparent exasperation was prompted by Democratic leadership’s response to comments Omar made around a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, during which she questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken about International Criminal Court investigations. After the hearing, she appeared to equate the U.S. and Israel with the Taliban.
“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” Omar wrote in a tweet along with a video of her questioning of Blinken.
Her remark sparked outrage among lawmakers and prompted a dozen Jewish Democrats who support Israel to demand on Wednesday that Omar “clarify” what she said.
“The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups,” the group of 12 Democrats said in a statement. “We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the U.S. and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”
Omar later did attempt to clarify her remarks, insisting that she “was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
However, she added Wednesday night that she found the statement from the Jewish lawmakers “offensive.”
“The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive,” Omar tweeted. “The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable.”
Earlier on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and all members of House leadership issued a rare joint statement rebuking Omar for her remarks.
“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate. And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies,” House Democratic leadership said in their statement.
“But drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all,” the statement added.
The entire House Democratic leadership team issued the joint statement, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA), Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Vice Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-CA).