Blue State Blues: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib Silent About China’s Muslims

Ilhan Omar ashamed with Rashida Tlaib (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

First-year Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (MI) take pride in being the first Muslim women elected to Congress — as they should.

Whether they are doing a good job is another matter.

They have a lot to say about Israel — some of it antisemitic — as well as Venezuela. They also complain, frequently, about anti-Muslim prejudice in the U.S.

Curiously, neither one of them — including Omar, who has a seat on the the House Foreign Affairs Committee — has had anything to say in Congress about China’s persecution of Muslims.

Last year, the Trump administration warned that China was imprisoning Muslims in concentration camps. The State Department issued a multilateral statement at the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC:

As representatives of the international community, we are deeply concerned about the significant restrictions on religious freedom in China and call on the Chinese government to respect the human rights of all individuals. Many members of religious minority groups in China – including Uighurs, Hui, and Kazakh Muslims; Tibetan Buddhists; Catholics; Protestants; and Falun Gong – face severe repression and discrimination because of their beliefs.

We are particularly troubled by reports of the Chinese government’s deepening crackdown on Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in China, including: undue restrictions on freedom of religion; destruction of mosques; unprecedented levels of surveillance; efforts to pressure other governments into forcibly returning Uighurs to China or to coerce family members of Uighurs still in Xinjiang to encourage Uighurs living aboard to return; and the detention of hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in facilities ranging from makeshift holding centers to prisons, ostensibly for “political re-education,” in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. There are reports of deaths in these facilities. We call on the Chinese government to release immediately all those arbitrarily detained.

Some Muslim community organizations have been vocal in their criticism of China. But Omar and Tlaib have not.

As a candidate, Omar once tweeted a report about China’s abuse of Muslim human rights. That was it.

Tlaib’s only tweets about China have been to criticize President Donald Trump’s neckties, and the way he says the word, “China.”

These two so-called “Justice Democrats” are not the only Muslim public figures who are quiet about China. Most of the Muslim world’s leaders, with the belated exception of Turkey’s president, have been silent about China. And, as the Hoover Institution explained last year, that is because of China’s growing economic and geopolitical power.

But there is no evidence that Omar and Tlaib owe anything to the Chinese government. That makes their reticence all the more puzzling.

Given that the Trump administration has adopted a confrontational tone toward China on trade, among other issues, one might think Omar and Tlaib would work with him — or use the opportunity to insist that the president make Muslim human rights a key issue in future dealings with China. Trump would have little choice but to agree.

Yet they are silent.

At the risk of mind-reading, there seem to be three explanations.

One possibility is prejudice — that is, they only care when Jews are the perceived aggressors.

Another is that Omar and Tlaib are ideologically bound to an anti-American axis in foreign policy that includes China and Iran. (Hence their defenses of the Maduro regime in Venezuela, for example.)

The final possibility is they simply cannot tolerate the thought of working with Trump, even to save Muslims in China. Both called for his impeachment this week, after all.

The message to Muslims in Chinese concentration camps: Sorry, just politics.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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