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  • Norman Young

What If Ilhan Omar's Defense of ISIS Conspirators Was Applied to Neo-Nazis?

A few days ago, Representative Dan Crenshaw attacked Representative Ilhan Omar on Twitter, linking to footage where she referred to the 9/11 attacks as "some people did something." Ilhan Omar responded by calling his Tweet an "incitement to violence" against her. Representative Rashida Tlaib immediately and predictably called the attack "racist," saying "They do this all the time to us, especially women of color." Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also jumped to Omar's defense, pointing out that Omar co-sponsored a bill called the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund" and criticizing Crenshaw for not supporting it. Afterward, AOC added this nugget:

This line of attack was an overreach that actually weakened the position of the trio of progressive Congresswomen. Crenshaw did not take advantage of the chink in their armor, but he could have responded this way:

"That's an interesting point. Just imagine what would happen if a Republican voiced the same position on neo-Nazi terrorism that Ilhan Omar once put forward regarding ISIS terrorism?"

The response tweet could have included a link to a letter Omar wrote back in 2016 in defense of a convicted Somali-American ISIS-supporter.

I will take Crenshaw's hypothetical riposte one step further. Below, I have recreated Ilhan Omar's letter to Judge Davis, modifying it only slightly so that, instead of defending Islamic conspirator Abdurahman Yasin Daud, it instead uses her same words to defend James Alex Fields, Jr., the Charlottesville killer:

Honorable Judge Richard Moore,

As you undoubtedly deliberate with great caution the sentencing of one white American man, I bring to your attention the ramifications of sentencing young men who made a consequential mistake to decades in federal prison. Incarcerating a 20-year-old man for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to be 50 or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion. Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: “Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr.”

The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to affect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation. A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it.

The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people -- it is the consequences of systematic alienation; people seek violent solutions when the process established for enacting change is inaccessible to them. Fueled by disaffection turned to malice, if the guilty were willing to kill and be killed fighting perceived injustice, imagine the consequence of them hearing, “I believe you can be rehabilitated. I want you to become part of my community, and together we will thrive.” We use this form of distributive justice for patients with chemical dependencies; treatment and societal reintegration. The most effective penance is making these men ambassadors of reform.

The restorative approach provides a long-term solution – though the self-declared Ku Klux Klan members may be small in number, their radical approach to change-making will continue as it has throughout history – by criminalizing the undergirding construct rather than its predisposed victims. Therein, this ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism.

Thank you for your careful attention,

Ilhan Omar State Representative-Elect – MN 60B

Just imagine, for a second, how much justifiable outrage such a letter from a sitting Congressperson would cause. Why, then, do we pretend that Omar's position on Islamic terrorism is not equally outrageous?

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