An anti-Muslim poster outside the chamber of the West Virginia House of Delegates that falsely connected the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has drawn strong rebukes from local and national lawmakers, while causing the resignation of a state capitol staffer and the reported injury of another.
The sign, which loomed over a table loaded with other Islamophobic flyers on a “WV GOP Day” at the legislature on Friday, bore an image of the burning World Trade Center in New York, juxtaposed with a picture of Omar, one of the first Muslim congresswomen ever elected.
“‘Never forget’ – You said,” was written over the Twin Towers. On Omar’s picture, a caption read: “I am the proof you have forgotten.”
“No wonder why I am on the ‘hitlist’ of a domestic terrorist and ‘Assassinate Ilhan Omar’ is written on my local gas stations,” the Minnesota Democrat, wrote on Twitter as the images went viral. “Look no further, the GOP’s anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them!”
The reference to a “hitlist” was likely to the case of Christopher Hasson, a lieutenant in the US coast guard who was recently revealed to have plotted to kill Democratic members of Congress including Omar and New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other leading liberal figures.
Omar was born in Somalia and moved to the US as a child. She has risen to prominence since entering the US House, as remarks critical of the influence of Israel on US politicians have been construed as antisemitic by political opponents and senior Democrats.
On Saturday, the West Virginia Republican party condemned the anti-Muslim flyers and posters.
Our party supports freedom of speech but we do not endorse speech that advances intolerant and hateful views,” chairwoman Melody Potter said in a statement, which added that the party did not approve of the sign and had asked the exhibitor to remove it. No one acknowledged permitting the display.
The group whose name appeared on a sign next to the display, Act for America, has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-for-profit which monitors extremists. In 2017, leader Brigitte Gabriel visited the Trump White House.
The organization, which describes itself as a national security advocacy group, issued a statement saying it was not behind the images.
“Anyone who claimed to be with Act for America was doing so without the permission and approval of Act for America,” the statement read. “Act has 1m members and 45,000 activists and chapter leaders. It is impossible for our national headquarter for [sic] monitor the behavior of every single individual who claims to represent us.”
Onlookers outside the West Virginia House chamber snapped photos of the poster and accompanying literature.
Readin’, Writin’, And Jihadin,’ The Islamization of American Public Schools,” read one pamphlet. Another flyer warned of “The Four Stages of Islamic Conquest”.
Many West Virginia House delegates denounced the display. One admitted to getting so mad he kicked a House door open, which resulted in a doorkeeper being physically injured. Another grew furious, saying he heard a staffer make an anti-Muslim remark.
“The sergeant of arms of this body, that represents the people of the state of West Virginia, said, ‘All Muslims are terrorists.’ That’s beyond shameful,” said Michael Angelucci, a Democrat, his voice rising to a shout. “And that’s not freedom of speech. That’s hate speech, and it has no place in this house.”
The sergeant of arms, Anne Lieberman, resigned on Friday. She has declined to comment.
Republican House speaker Roger Hanshaw said: “We owe it to ourselves, we owe it our constituents, we owe it to the men and women and children and families that we represent to do better than we are.”
“We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state, to become a cancer on our legislature, to invade our chamber in a way that frankly makes me ashamed.”