Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN) and Jan Schakowsky (IL) penned a joint op-ed on Tuesday, calling for Muslim and Jewish communities to stand together in the face of resurgent white nationalism.
“White nationalists win when our two communities are divided,” the two, who are Muslim and Jewish themselves, wrote on CNN. “They seek to exploit our divisions and grievances to further an agenda of hate. But we know that when we are united, we are stronger. We know this because in our own communities, Jewish and Muslim constituents have joined hands in solidarity and denounced these hate-filled massacres.”
“We may not see eye to eye on all issues, but we must acknowledge that attacks on our faiths are two sides of the same bigoted coin,” they continued. “As Americans, we must all stand together in rejecting hate and embracing one another to create a country and a culture of unity and justice.”
Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who is also Muslim, have faced repeated bad-faith attacks over their supposed anti-Semitism in recent months. In February, Omar faced a firestorm of accusations, particularly from the right, after she tweeted that Republican support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins” and that pro-Israel groups like AIPAC were influencing the United States’ pro-Israel stance.
The Minnesota congresswoman later apologized for her comments “unequivocally,” saying she was “listening and learning, but standing strong.”
Over the weekend, Tlaib faced her own round of anti-Semitism accusations from Republicans, who falsely suggested that Tlaib had spoken warmly of the Holocaust during a Yahoo News podcast. In reality, Tlaib had suggested she felt a “calming feeling” when remembering how her Palestinian ancestors had provided refuge to Jews after World War II.
Experts say there has been a worrying uptick in white nationalism and far-right extremism over the past two years and numerous studies support this claim. As Omar and Schakowsky noted in their column Tuesday, there has been a sharp increase in both anti-Semitic incidents — which have more than doubled from 2017 to 2018 according to the ADL — and anti-Muslim incidents, which have risen from 260 in 2017 to 300 in 2018, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The latest example of this surge in hate crimes occurred at the Diyanet Mosque in New Haven, Connecticut, on Sunday, where a fire broke out, rendering the mosque uninhabitable. On Monday, the New Haven Fire Department announced that the fire had been set intentionally. According to The New Haven Register, local churches have offered to hold services for the displaced Muslim worshipers while the mosque undergoes repairs.
Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have largely avoided commenting on or providing solutions for the rise in far right extremism.
Following an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, Trump was asked whether he saw white nationalism as a growing threat around the globe. “I don’t really,” he said. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
Trump has also infamously praised the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who attended the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, describing them as “very fine people” and more recently as people who simply “felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee.”
This apathy has trickled down to rank-and-file Republicans as well. During a congressional hearing on white nationalism in April, Republicans repeatedly yielded their time to conservative commentator Candace Owens, who in turn spent most of her time talking about how the hearings were a waste of time and that Democrats were the real racists.
This point is not lost on Reps. Omar and Schakowsky. “Addressing this hate should not be a partisan issue in the United States,” they wrote Tuesday. “Yet the current administration has manifestly failed to address its rise.”
They added, “White nationalism is on the rise. And we must defeat it — together.”