Ilhan Omar Attacked With Deportation Calls Over Mistranslated Speech
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jbb • 4 weeks ago • 17 comments
By: Nikki McCann Ramirez (Rolling Stone)
The Somali-American congresswoman has been threatened with expulsion from Congress and worse over remarks that appear to have been mistranslated
By Nikki McCann Ramirez
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) submitted a resolution on Thursday seeking to censure Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), accusing the Somali-American congresswoman of making "treasonous statements" and of having "revealed herself to be a foreign agent acting on behalf of a foreign government," through her support for the Somali community.
There's just one problem: Omar didn't actually give the statements quoted by Greene in her resolution. Greene's is what appears to be an egregious mistranslations of a speech Omar gave at an event in Minneapolis — home to a large Somali immigrant population — on Saturday. Despite their inaccuracy, the alleged quotes have ginned up calls for Omar's expulsion from the government and (even though she's an American citizen) her deportation.
A video of the speech, which Omar delivered in Somali, superimposed with the faulty translations, went viral on social media over the weekend. It was quickly picked up by right-wing commentators and news outlets who were outraged over Omar's purported statements, without bothering to verify the translation.
In the speech, Omar discussed a recent Ethiopian deal with the separatist region of Somaliland, which Somalia considers part of its own territory. Omar's opposition to the deal aligns directly with the stated position of the U.S. government, which has said Ethiopia's incursion into Somaliland could potentially destabilize the Horn of Africa. Regardless, Omar was accused of inappropriately advocating for the nation of her birth.
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"The U.S. government will only do what Somalians in the U.S. tell them to do! They will do what we want and nothing else," read the incorrect translation quoted by Greene. "They must follow our orders and that is how we will safeguard the interest of Somalia."
MTG is dropping a resolution to censure Ilhan Omar today. pic.twitter.com/4nXxXMK19J
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) February 1, 2024
"For as long as I am in the U.S. Congress, Somalia will never be in danger, its waters will not be stolen by Ethiopia or others. Sleep in comfort knowing I am here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the U.S. system," read another portion of the faulty text.
The translation also claimed that Omar had declared that "we are an organized society, brothers and sisters, people of the same blood, people who know they are Somalians first, Muslims second, who protect one another."
In her floor speech Thursday, Greene introduced the resolution with a pointed jab at Omar. "Censuring Representative Ilhan Omar of Somali — I mean— Minnesota," Greene said, before reading the text of the document. "I urge my colleagues to vote to censure, but I wish I had the votes to expel and deport her," Greene said in a video posted on Thursday.
Today, I'm introducing a Censure Resolution on Ilhan Omar for admitting she's working as a foreign agent for a foreign country.
I urge my colleagues to vote to Censure, but I wish I had the votes to expel and deport her. pic.twitter.com/yNuh2kf7Ii
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (@RepMTG) February 1, 2024
Omar herself stated Sunday on X, formerly Twitter, that the translation was "not only slanted but completely off, but I wouldn't expect more from these propagandists." The congresswoman pointed to multiple more accurate interpretations that were already floating around social media as the controversy gained steam.
The difference is stark.
Omar had not placed her Somali roots over her Muslim faith, had not leveled a war cry against the federal government in support of Somali interests, and had not — as many Republicans accused — declared herself Somalia first, America second. In fact, the speech was not at all that different from the speeches lawmakers from immigrant backgrounds or from districts with immigrant and minority populations regularly deliver.
On Wednesday, the Star Tribune found that the viral video's translation differed significantly from another translation Omar had promoted on social media as being more accurate. On Thursday, hours before Greene read her resolution on the House floor, the Minessota Reformer published a full transcript of Omar's speech based on translations provided by two independent translators, one of whom is a federally certified court interpreter. Here it is in full:
We Somalis are people who love each other. It's possible that we might sometimes have disagreements but we are also people who can rely on each other. We are people who are siblings. We are people with courage. We are people who know that they are Somali and Muslim. We are people who support each other.
So when I heard that people who call themselves Somalis signed an agreement with Ethiopia, many people reached out to me and said I needed to talk to the U.S. government. They asked, what would the U.S. government do? My answer was that the U.S. government will do what we tell the U.S. government to do. That is the confidence we need to have as Somalis. We live in this country. This is the country where we pay taxes. This is the country that has elected a woman from your community. For as long as I am in Congress, no one will take over the seas belonging to the nation of Somalia and the United States will not support others who seek to steal from us. So feel comfortable Somali Minnesotans that the woman you sent to Congress is aware of this issue and feels the same way you do.
I want to tell President Hassan Sheikh that we are happy with the great work that you have done. We are happy that you have made the people of Somalia and those who live everywhere feel that no matter how difficult our current situation, we are people who have power and who believe in their country.
I want to congratulate Somalis living in Minnesota and elsewhere for being united, for standing with our president because he needs our support. Somalia is Somali. Somalia is one. We are siblings. Our land will not be divided. God willing we will seek to return our missing territory and will not allow the territory we have now to be divided.I want to thank you for how you have welcomed me. May peace be upon you.
Regardless of early signs that she'd been severely misquoted, she was widely accused by Republicans of placing the interest of Somalia before that of American citizens. House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) called for an ethics investigation into Omar's reportedly "shocking remarks expressing allegiance to the interests of Somalia."
"Ilhan Omar's appalling, Somalia-first comments are a slap in the face to the Minnesotans she was elected to serve and a direct violation of her oath of office. She should resign in disgrace," Emmer added in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gave his own two cents on X. "Expel from Congress, denaturalize and deport," the failed presidential candidate wrote.
There hasn't been much in the way of apologies to Omar. The congresswoman wrote on Wednesday that "unfortunately in our country we can't sue people for defamation because we are public officials," but that she remains "confident that the people I represent will never fall for the lies that are out there to smear me. They know who I represent and why I fight hard for the Minnesotans than have sent me to Congress."