Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar once described acts of terrorism as a reaction to “our involvement in other people’s affairs,” in the wake of the brutal al-Shabab attack on a Kenyan shopping mall in 2013.
Omar made the comments during an obscure local television appearance just weeks after four armed al-Shabab jihadists stormed the Westgate mall in Nairobi in 2013, killing nearly 70 people and wounding 200.
“When are we gonna decide or realize that terrorism is a reaction? It’s an ideology, it’s a means of things, it’s not an entity, it’s not a place, people. It’s a reaction to a situation,” host Ahmed Tharwat asked then-activist Omar, on the show "Belahdan" on Twin Cities PBS during a discussion about the experience of the Somali community in the U.S. following the attack in Kenya.
“Yes,” she agreed. “What you’re insinuating is what nobody wants to face. Nobody wants to face how the actions of the other people that are involved in the world have contributed to the rise of the radicalization and the rise of terrorist acts.”
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She continued: “Usually most people want to not look internal and see what their actions that makes another react. For us, it’s always ‘I must have not done anything. Why is it happening to me?’ Nobody wants to take accountability of how these are byproducts of the actions of our involvement in other people’s affairs.”
“For us, it’s always ‘I must have not done anything. Why is it happening to me?’ Nobody wants to take accountability of how these are byproducts of the actions of our involvement in other people’s affairs.”
Tharwat, who has given a platform before to radical activists -- including a political cartoonist who won second place in the 2006 Iranian International Holocaust Cartoon Competition, an anti-Semitic contest featuring Holocaust denial -- went on to compare the violence perpetrated by terror groups around the world to the actions of western governments.
“Most of the people who commit these kind of heinous violence are done by people unelected that are just fringe of the societies … but the violence done [by] the West is done by the people that are elected,” he said, prompting Omar to agree that violence committed by the West is “legitimized.”
Omar is now a freshman member of the House, holding a seat on the influential Foreign Affairs Committee overseeing legislation and investigations related to American foreign policy.
She recently came under fire for a 2016 letter asking a judge to show leniency toward a group of Minnesota men accused of trying to join the Islamic State terror group. In the letter, she urged compassion and blamed the men’s “desire to commit violence” on “systematic alienation.”
But the 2013 comments – and it remains unclear if she still stands behind them – have generated more criticism. Omar’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Fox News.
“We’ve heard variations of this argument for decades now. We hear it on 9/11, we heard it when suicide bombs go off on train stations in London or Madrid,” Robin Simcox, a national security and terrorism expert at The Heritage Foundation, told Fox News.
“The problem the people who make that argument have is that you can’t possibly logically explain then why attacks take place in, for example, Cameroon or the Philippines, or Thailand, or China,” Simcox continued. “This isn’t something dictated by facts or logic, it’s something that is an ideological position that Omar is obviously determined to take regardless of the facts.”
Before Omar made the comments during the 2013 appearance, the host also asked whether Americans should be held responsible for the U.S. government’s support of countries that intervened in Somalia after Islamist extremists took control over parts of the country in 2006.
“The context, the way media covered this. Nobody would talk about what al-Shabab is all about,” Tharwat said, pointing that al-Shabab was fighting groups and states supported by the U.S. “Do I hold average Americans responsible because their state [supports] another country to invade your country, or my country?”
Tharwat later doubled down, saying that “Even al-Shabab, evil as they are, if you look at their history, it’s a product of what? A destruction of the country.”
Omar replied with “yeah” multiple times to the host’s comments, before remarking “we could even go further” and said the media ignore attacks by al-Shabab in Somalia. “Everyone wants to talk about what was carried outside [of Somalia] and we don’t understand the politics that is involved in this,” she said.
Omar has been facing scrutiny over her views concerning foreign policy since she was sworn in last month, including recent comments comparing Israel to Iran and saying she “almost chuckle[s]” whenever the Jewish state is described as a democracy. She later agreed with a liberal activist on social media that current-day Israel is much like the U.S. South during segregation.