Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan April 15, 2019

Ilhan Omar misstates the facts about CAIR's founding

President Donald Trump seized on four words out of a much longer speech by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., to launch a blistering political attack about Sept. 11.

Omar is one of two Muslim women serving in Congress and a vocal proponent of Muslim rights.

To describe the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Omar said, "some people did something." We went back to her original speech to find the offending phrase. Here’s what we found:

"For too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and, frankly, I'm tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.

"CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. So you can't just say that today someone is looking at me strange, that I am going to try to make myself look pleasant. You have to say this person is looking at me strange, I am not comfortable with it, I am going to go talk to them and ask them why. Because that is a right you have. … You can't hate up close. Anytime you have an opportunity to go talk to someone, the chances of them hating you lessens. So that is a practice we should all adopt."

Featured Fact-check

You can read Omar’s entire remarks in context. While people can disagree about the appropriateness of her description of 9/11, our attention was caught by her statement about CAIR, specifically that it was founded after 9/11. This is not accurate. Other reports have noted the inaccuracy as well.

CAIR stands for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It was founded in 1994, according to its website, "to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America." It annually issues reports on the status of American Muslim civil rights; reports on its website date back to 1996.

CAIR’s first report came in response to the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, after which some people initially blamed Muslims for the bombing. The actual bomber was a white native-born American, Timothy McVeigh.

We asked Omar’s staff why she made such a clear mistake about an organization that she says she supports. Spokesperson Jeremy Slevin said that CAIR had doubled in size after the Sept. 11 attacks. "It was a misstatement, and she now knows that it was founded earlier," he said.

Omar was clearly wrong in her description of CAIR’s beginning. We rate her statement False.

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Says that CAIR was founded after 9/11.
a speech
Saturday, March 23, 2019

Our Sources

Ilhan Omar delivers remarks at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, via YouTube, March 23, 2019

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, About Us, accessed April 14, 2019

CAIR Civil Rights Reports, 1996-2009, accessed April 14, 2019

Email interview with Jeremy Slevin, communications director for U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, April 14, 2019


 

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Ilhan Omar misstates the facts about CAIR's founding

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