Homeland Security

Ilhan Omar and the Bait-and-Switch of Collective Guilt

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., conduct a news conference in the Capitol on January 10, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

€Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has been heavily criticized for apparently trivializing the 9/11 jihad attacks when she characterized them as “some people did something.” However, in a recent interview (with Al Jazeera, which is as anti-Semitic as she is), Omar revealed what was really important to her about those attacks, in which 3,000 Americans were killed: she wanted to make sure that in light of them, no one thought ill of Islam or blamed all Muslims: “What is important,” she said, “is the larger point that I was speaking to, which is about making sure that blame isn’t placed on a whole faith, that we as Muslims are not collectively blamed for the actions of terrorists,” Omar added.

We hear this often: jihad terror attacks are committed only by a minuscule fringe of the global Islamic community, and so it is of paramount importance that we not point fingers at Muslims in the aggregate, or at Islam itself, as if they were responsible for those attacks.

And of course it’s true. No one should ever be held responsible for something which with he or she had nothing to do, and no one should blame innocent Muslims for the actions of terrorists.  Everyone takes that for granted. But Ilhan Omar’s words to Al Jazeera only obfuscate the fact that jihad terrorists are indeed galvanized by teachings of Islam that mandate everlasting war against the infidel.

This is not a popular or widespread view. We are constantly told that Islam and Muslims had nothing to do with 9/11, despite the devoutness of the perpetrators, their cries of “Allahu akbar,” and the rest. Omar’s claim is predicated on the assumption, almost universally accepted today, that Islam and the genuine understanding of jihad have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism, and thus cannot be held responsible for the actions of terrorists.

Nonetheless, Omar’s framing of this question as one of “making sure that blame isn’t placed on a whole faith, that we as Muslims are not collectively blamed for the actions of terrorists” actually sidesteps the real issue: what is in the texts and teachings of Islam that incites believers to violence, and what can be done about it? When has Ilhan Omar ever spoken about that? If Omar’s assumptions are true, the question is inevitable: why do so many Muslims misunderstand the tenets of their faith? Why is Islam so hard to grasp?

The History of Jihad from Muhammad to ISIS makes it clear that jihad violence runs like a scarlet thread through the history of Islam, from its very beginnings to today, without any let-up, reconsideration, or reformation. There are also numerous verses in the Qur’an exhorting believers to carry out acts of violence against non-Muslims (2:191, 4:89, 8:12, 9:5, 47:4, etc.). During the era of the first four successors of Muhammad as leaders of the Muslim community, known in Islamic tradition as the age of the “Rightly-Guided Caliphs,” Muslim armies swept out of Arabia and swiftly conquered the Middle East, North Africa, and much of Persia. By one hundred years after the purported death of Muhammad in 632, the Islamic empire stretched from Spain to India.

All of these conquests were animated by Islam’s doctrines mandating warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers, the same doctrines that groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) invoke today to justify their actions and make recruits among peaceful Muslims. Should the “blame” be placed on “a whole faith” for those conquests, and many more in the fourteen hundred years of jihad activity, that were carried out in the name of Islam and in accord with Islamic texts and teachings? If Islamic teachings motivated those conquests, it motivates the jihad terrorists who are inspired by the same teachings now.

But if Ilhan Omar is correct, then apparently Muhammad himself, who led numerous jihad attacks against the pagan Arabs and Jews of Arabia, misunderstood Islam, as did the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and virtually every Muslim leader since then. For Islamic history, while containing an unbroken record of jihad violence, also reveals a glaring absence: never in the 1,400 years of Islam has there been a large-scale movement of Muslims against that jihad violence, preaching the necessity of peaceful coexistence as equals with infidels in a society not ruled by Islamic law.

Unless those teachings are acknowledged and confronted, jihad terrorism is going to continue indefinitely. Is that what Ilhan Omar wants?


Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.