Rep. Omar’s Upcoming Speech at Islamic Charity Event Generates Controversy

February 13, 2019
U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a news conference to call on Congress to cut funding for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) upcoming speaking engagement at an Islamic charity has  generated controversy because the event flyer had her on the same bill as someone who has posted anti-Semitic statements on social media.

Omar is scheduled to speak on Feb. 23 at Islamic Relief USA’s fundraiser for Yemen. The initial flyer for the event stated that Islamic Relief USA official Yousef Abdullah was speaking.

Abdullah has referred to Jews as “stinking” on social media and shared a Facebook post that dreamed about a “resistance hero” giving firearms to “kill more than 20 Jews.” He also criticized former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) for apologizing for referring to Judea and Samaria and Gaza as “occupied” in 2014, writing that “Christie kneels down on his knees before the jewish lords and says ‘I am sorry’. Only money makes stuff like this happen.”

After myriad news outlets reported that Abdullah and Omar were speaking on the same night, Omar’s communications director, Jeremy Slevin, tweeted that the reports were inaccurate and Abdallah is not slated to speak that night and won’t be in attendance.

Jerusalem Post reporter Ilanit Chernick tweeted that Slevin was lying, highlighting the initial photo and claiming that Islamic Relief USA removed Abdullah from the flyer on their event page:

Slevin told the Jerusalem Post that Abdullah won’t be in town for the event and the initial flyer was based off a flyer from a previous event; Abdullah’s name was left on by mistake.

The volunteers page for the event also initially had the aforementioned flyer embedded in it, but it was taken down after the Journal asked Islamic Relief USA to explain why the flyer on the volunteers page was different from the flyer on the EventBrite page.

A spokesman from Islamic Relief USA told the Journal in an email that while Abdullah works for the organization and will be attending the event, he won’t be speaking.

We edited the event page after [we] realized our error in posting him as a speaker,” the spokesperson said. “We did not update the other volunteer event page at the time you reviewed the page; however, we have done [so] to reflect the accuracy of the event’s program.”

The spokesperson also sent the Journal a statement from Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA )CEO Sharif Aly that says, “Islamic Relief USA has a history of multi-faith engagement that has included outreach to friends and allies in the Jewish community. We have strong and deep connections and to suggest otherwise is baseless and false.”

“As it’s been mentioned previously to Middle Eastern Forum [MEF], which has a history of rehashing the same old falsehoods, IRUSA has taken steps to address individual employees’ actions and behaviors that are contrary to the organization’s values. Perhaps MEF conveniently left out mentioning a powerful column that was published regarding IRUSA’s trip to the Holocaust Museum, as it would be inconsistent with their constant smear tactics. A simple Google search would have done the trick.”

In June, MEF published a report stating that Islamic Relief USA has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

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