Republicans called Ilhan Omar ‘treasonous’ for something she didn’t actually say

Republicans called Ilhan Omar ‘treasonous’ for something she didn’t actually say

Ilhan Omar prompted Republican outrage and calls for her deportation over a speech in Somali about her country of birth.

But, the trouble with those criticisms is that she didn’t actually say what they are accusing her of saying.

The reaction to the Minnesota congresswoman’s speech, at an event to celebrate a recent election in Puntland, a region of Somalia, was based on a mistranslation of her remarks in a video posted online.

That mistranslation made it appear as though the “Squad” Democrat said that Somalis are “people who know they are Somalians first, Muslims second”.

Far-right US Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to censure Ms Omar over the mistranslated comments, calling her words “treasonous”.

“I urge my colleagues to vote to censure, but I wish I had the votes to expel and deport her,” Ms Greene wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, also from Minnesota, jumped on the remarks and called on Ms Omar to resign.

“Ilhan Omar’s appalling, Somalia-first comments are a slap in the face to the Minnesotans she was elected to serve and a direct violation of her oath of office,” he wrote on X. “She should resign in disgrace.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also waded into the dispute, commenting on the mistranslation: “Expel from Congress, denaturalize and deport!”

But a local news outlet, Minnesota Reformer, enlisted the services of two independent translators to provide an accurate transcription and found she said no such thing.

According to their translators, one of whom is a certified court interpreter, Ms Omar said: “Somalis are people who love each other. It’s possible that we might sometimes have disagreements but we are also people who can rely on each other. We are people who are siblings. We are people with courage. We are people who know that they are Somali and Muslim. We are people who support each other.”

The Reformer also noted another mistranslation, in which Ms Omar was accused of saying: “The US government will only do what Somalians in the US tell them to do. They will do what we want and nothing else. They must follow our orders.”

What she actually said, according to The Reformer’s translation, was: “When I heard that people who call themselves Somalis signed an agreement with Ethiopia, many people reached out to me and said I needed to talk to the US

US Rep Ilhan Omar (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
US Rep Ilhan Omar (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


“They asked, ‘What would the US government do?’ My answer was that the US government will do what we tell the US government to do. That is the confidence we need to have as Somalis.”

Ms Omar hit out at both Ms Greene and Mr Emmer in a comment to The Independent.

“I am deeply embarrassed for Tom, Marjorie, and any of the other fools who are attacking me based on this bunk translation, this is desperate and frankly sad, even for them,” she said.

“The attacks being lobbed against me are not only completely false, they are rooted in xenophobia and Islamophobia. This is a manufactured controversy based on an inaccurate translation taken entirely out of context. I’m no stranger to these types of misinformation campaigns targeting Muslim elected officials.”

Ms Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1982. As the youngest of seven siblings, her mother died when she was a child, leaving her father – a teacher trainer – and her grandfather to raise her.

She and her family managed to escape the country to Kenya, where they lived in a refugee camp for four years. In 1995, they immigrated to the US, arriving first in Virginia, then two years later moving to Minneapolis.

She became a US citizen at 17 years of age and won her first political race at 34 when she was elected to Minnesota’s state House of Representatives.

Ms Omar was first elected by Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in 2019. She is the first Somali-American member of Congress and one of only two Muslim members of Congress.

The Independent has contacted Ms Greene’s office for comment.