US House Passes Anti-Islamophobia Bill In Wake of Omar-Boebert Rift
The legislation was prompted when Republican representative for Colorado Lauren Boebert bragged about her quip that a fellow representative, Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, could have been a suicide bomber. The remark, however, seems to have caused more outrage than amusement.
The US House of Representatives rolled out a bill to designate a State Department unit that would fight Islamophobia in the United States and across the world, passing the legislation on Wednesday with a 219-212 party-line vote.
House Majority Leader Steny Hamilton Hoyer welcomed the initiative, praising it as a step toward in combating religious bigotry.
"No one should have to live in fear because of one’s religion – today, however, the threat of Islamophobic violence has become a daily reality for Muslim Americans," he said. "Just as we have a special envoy to tackle antisemitism, it is important that we take this step today to continue our commitment to fighting the scourge of religious intolerance here at home and around the world."
Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Democrat representative for Massachusetts, James McGovern, on Tuesday introduced the bill and said that surveys show an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric both in America and around the world. What led the House to convene and take action, according to him, was a colleague who had "told a completely fabricated story again and again that implies a Muslim colleague is a terrorist just because they are Muslim."
He did not refer to anyone in particular, but the quick move to introduce anti-Islamophobia legislation comes in light of a recent feud sparked between Democrat representative Ilhan Omar and her Republican colleague Lauren Boebert who joked that Omar could be a suicide bomber and called her "jihad squad". Although Boebert apologised to "anyone in the Muslim community I offended", this did not quell the storm.
With radio silence from the Republican lawmaker on the new bill and the scandal around her joke, Omar herself was quick to celebrate the passage of the initiative as a "huge milestone for Muslims around the world and a powerful signal that Islamophobia cannot be tolerated anywhere."
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowing that the new bill is not an end to the Democrats' responsive actions, the GOP lawmakers cracked down on the new legislation. Republicans said it has been forged too quickly and seem to make a preference for certain religious group.
“It’s so vague and subjective that it could be used against legitimate speech for partisan purposes,” said representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
During the debate on the new legislation, GOP representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania lashed out at Omar, claiming that she was "affiliated" with terrorist organisations - his words swiftly taken down from the protocol, and the House's rules-enforcer prohibiting him from taking the floor for the rest of the night.
Perry is not the only one who appears to share sentiments voiced by Boebert rather than those of Omar. When the rift between the two lawmakers unfolded, Boebert found an ally in Marjorie Taylor-Greene - another outstanding Republican lawmaker notorious for her sometimes controversial statements. She lambasted another Republican, Nancy Mace, who defended Omar.
Apparently provoked by the GOP's most outspoken members, the Democrats have called on the rival party's leadership to stand up to them when they "cross a line". However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican representative from California, has only called on Taylor-Greene and Mace to stop their squabble, without commenting much on the issue.