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March 8, 2019 12:24 pm

Somali-Americans in Minneapolis Voice Criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar for ‘Targeting Jews’

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Feb. 7, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst / Files.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent remarks that American supporters of Israel are loyal to a foreign state have angered some of her constituents.

The New York Times on Friday reported unfavorable responses from voters in the freshman Democratic Congresswoman’s Minneapolis district.

“I told her she had a poor choice of words, which hurt people,” said Mohamed Ahmed, who voted for Ms. Omar but was unsure whether he would do so again. “And words matter if you’re a leader.”

Ahmed, a Somali-American like Rep. Omar, told the Times that the Congresswoman had been a “hero to my daughters.”

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“She’s an idol. They look up to her. They aspire to be her,” he explained.

The same article noted that Omar’s comments, and the weeks of backlash, “raised questions about tolerance and free speech in a place that consistently elects a diverse slate of politicians, as well as concerns about the future of a carefully crafted rapport between leaders of the area’s sizable Jewish and Muslim communities.”

“We don’t want these issues to derail the relationship,” said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, who said he was “appalled” by Ms. Omar’s most recent remarks.

Omar’s district, which spans Minneapolis and some of its inner-ring suburbs, is a place attuned to religious tension. Longtime members of the Somali community still speak about the profiling they experienced in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and about the fear they felt after a mosque was bombed by white supremacists in nearby Bloomington in 2017. In those difficult times, the Times quoted them saying, Jewish leaders in Minnesota made a point of stating their support.

“When religion is under attack, they stand by us, because they’ve been there,” said Zahra Ali, a Somali-American resident of Minneapolis who once saw Ms. Omar’s election as a beacon of hope but who did not plan to vote for her again.

“For her to go out there and target, on a daily basis, Jews, is very sad,” Ms. Ali said.

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