US Congress passes expanded anti-hate decision

WASHINGTON

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Thursday in a bid by House Democrats to quell an uproar over a congresswoman’s comments criticizing Israel.

The resolution, which passed with a vote of 407-23, condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as “hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States”.

The legislation is largely supposed to resolve a controversy over comments made by freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar last week.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said, referring to Israel, at a progressive town hall.

The remarks received widespread and bipartisan backlash, with others in Congress labeling them as anti-Semitic. It also led to the introduction of the resolution by Democrats in the House, which is seen as implicitly condemning the comments.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel called the remarks “unacceptable and deeply offensive”.

Omar has apologized for similar comments made last month. This time, however, she doubled down on her comments, saying she has “not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel. I have questioned it, and that has been clear from my end”.

Since her latest comments, an Islamophobic poster linking Omar to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. was placed in the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber and an assassination threat was written on the wall of a men’s bathroom at a gas station in Minnesota.

This prompted a delay in the vote, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, and allowed for the bill to be changed from solely condemning anti-Semitism to including the condemnation of Islamophobia and other types of bigotry.

All three congressional Muslims hailed the passage of the resolution, calling it “historic on many fronts”.

“It’s the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history,” Reps. Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Andre Carson said in a statement.

“We are tremendously proud to be part of a body that has put forth a condemnation of all forms of bigotry including anti-Semitism, racism, and white supremacy.

“Our nation is having a difficult conversation, and we believe this is great progress,” they added.

*Michael Hernandez contributed to this story from Washington

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