Trump disavows ‘send her back’ cry, Omar stands defiant

Ilhan Omar, above, said the fighting is over that people thinks the country should be like. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 July 2019

Trump disavows ‘send her back’ cry, Omar stands defiant

  • Video recording of campaign crowd does not suggest that Trump did try to stop the crowds
  • Ilhan Omar said the fight is over “what this country truly should be”

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has chided his supporters who chanted “send her back” when he questioned the loyalty of a Somali-born congresswoman, joining widespread criticism of the campaign crowd’s cry after Republicans warned about political blowback from the angry scene.

In a week that has been full of hostile exchanges over race and love of country on both sides, Trump also claimed he had tried to stop the chant at a reelection event Wednesday night in North Carolina — though video shows otherwise. The crowd’s “send her back” shouts resounded for 13 seconds as Trump made no attempt to interrupt them. He paused in his speech and surveyed the scene, taking in the uproar.

“I started speaking really quickly,” he told reporters Thursday. “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it” and “would certainly try” to stop any similar chant at a future rally.

The taunt’s target— Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — responded defiantly Thursday. She told reporters at the Capitol that she believes the president is a “fascist” and cast the confrontation as a fight over “what this country truly should be.”

“We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us. We are not deterred. We are not frightened,” she told a cheering crowd that greeted her like a local hero at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as she returned from Washington.

The back-and-forth captured the potential impacts of Trump’s willingness to inject racist rhetoric into his reelection fight. Trump’s allies distanced themselves from the chant, fretting over the voters it might turn off in next year’s election and beyond. Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to the episode as a rallying cry to energy and mobilize their supporters to vote Trump out of office.

“We are ready,” Omar said to cheers, before heading to a town hall on Medicare for All.

Trump started the week’s tumult by tweeting Sunday that Omar and three other freshmen congresswomen could “go back” to their native countries if they were unhappy here. His other targets — all Trump detractors — were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

All are American citizens, and all but Omar was born in the US She fled to America as a child with her family from violence-wracked Somalia.

The president did not back down from that criticism on Thursday.

They have “a big obligation and the obligation is to love your country,” he said. “There’s such hatred. They have such hatred.”

The chants at the Trump rally brought scathing criticism from GOP lawmakers as well as from Democrats, though the Republicans did not fault Trump himself.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California declared that the chant has “no place in our party and no place in this country.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois tweeted that it was “ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.”

Citing Trump’s rhetoric, House Democrats said they were discussing arranging security for Omar and the three other congresswomen.

Even by Trump’s standards, the campaign rally offered an extraordinary tableau for American politics: a president drinking in a crowd’s cries to expel a congresswoman from the country who’s his critic and a woman of color.

It was also the latest demonstration of how Trump’s verbal cannonades are capable of dominating the news. Democrats had hoped the spotlight on Thursday would be on House passage of legislation to boost the minimum wage for the first time in a decade.

To many GOP ears, this time the attention wasn’t all positive.

Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, a conservative who attended Trump’s rally, told reporters at the Capitol that the chant “does not need to be our campaign call like we did ‘Lock her up’ last time.”

That was a reference to a 2016 campaign mantra that Trump continues to encourage aimed at that year’s Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Walker, who called the chant “offensive,” was among about 10 House GOP leaders who had breakfast Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence at Pence’s residence in Washington. Walker said he cautioned Pence that attention to the chant could distract voters next year from the economy and other themes Republicans want to emphasize.

“We don’t need to take it that far where we change the narrative of the story,” he said he told Pence.

The lawmakers attending agreed that the chant was inappropriate and could prove a harmful distraction, and Pence concurred and said he’d discuss it with Trump, said another participant who described the conversation on condition of anonymity.

In North Carolina, Trump berated each of the four congresswomen and said: “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave.’” He added, “I think in some cases they hate our country.”

His criticism of Omar included a false accusation that she has voiced pride in Al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday condemned President Donald Trump’s xenophobic tweets against four minority Democratic congresswomen, saying the US leader’s attacks “go against what makes America great.”

“I firmly distance myself from (the attacks) and I feel solidarity toward” the women, she told journalists.

“In my view, the strength of America lies in that people from different (origins) contributed to what makes the country great.”


India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

Updated 18 January 2020

India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

  • Ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley
  • The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors

NEW DELHI: India has dispatched dozens of ministers to its portion of the Kashmir region to promote government projects and development following months of unrest in the area.

Last August New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, imposing a security crackdown and a communications blackout. It is India’s only Muslim-majority state and scrapping its semi-independence was the central government’s bid to integrate it fully with India and rein in militancy.

Prepaid mobile and Internet services have been restored although most of the valley remains without the Internet. Landline and post-paid mobile services were restored last month. 

The 36 ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley, with media reports saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the delegation “to spread the message of development among the people, not only in the urban areas but also in the villages of the valley.”

He was also reported as asking them to tell people about central government schemes that will have grassroot benefits.

The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors to the region.

Jammu-based ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo said the ministerial trip tied in with New Delhi’s development agenda.

“The ministers will interact with local-level representatives and stakeholders, and discuss the plan for the development of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “Kashmir cannot go back to the old ways. There are no political issues that remain here, all have been sorted out by parliament by abolishing Article 370, division of the state and neutralization of separatist elements.”

But India’s opposition Congress party said the visit was an attempt to “mislead and misguide” the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is a third attempt to mislead and misguide the people of the world, Jammu and Kashmir and India. They are coming here for a third time to tell lies,” Congress leader and the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam, Nabi Azad, said.

Dr. Radha Kumar, from the Delhi Policy Group, said that a development agenda would not work without addressing the political issue.

“With all the unilateral decisions to abrogate the special status of the state, arresting all the mainstream leaders and putting the state in a lockdown, how are the government’s actions so far going to establish credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir?” Kumar told Arab News. “I think this visit is more for international consumption than anything else.”

Dr. Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri intellectual and academic, called the visit a “clear sign” that New Delhi had no idea what to do.

“No matter how many ministers you send to Jammu and Kashmir it’s not going to alter the ground situation, it’s not going to address the issue of alienation,” he told Arab News. “What issues will they talk about with people? The government lost the people’s trust long ago.”

The Himalayan region has experienced turmoil and violence for decades. It is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India’s portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Jammu-based Zafar Choudhary, a senior journalist and editor of The Dispatch newspaper, said Modi’s government was full of surprises. “There have never been so many surprises in Jammu and Kashmir as have come in the last two years,” he told Arab News. “There is no instance in the past when so many central ministers have visited a state in one go.”

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