Hundreds of Yemeni deli owners across New York City have stopped carrying the New York Post on their newsstands after it published a racist and inflammatory cover targeting Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
The April 11 cover twisted recent remarks made by Omar explaining that 9/11 was used to whip up Islamophobia, and made it seem as though she was trivializing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Omar had said at the Council on American Islamic Relations, “CAIR was founded… because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” The Post ran a cover using part of Omar’s quote, “’some people did something,'” across a photo of the planes hitting the twin towers, with the Post’s answer, “Here’s Your Something.”
‘Inciting hate and violence’
“We are outraged” over the New York Post cover, said Debbie Almontaser , co-founder of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, which initiated the boycott of the newspaper. “It is inciting hate, it is inciting violence, it is putting Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s life in danger, as well as American Muslim women who look like her who walk the streets of the United States.”
Almontaser continued, “Whenever there is negative publicity promoted by the media, we hear reports of hate crimes in our communities….We’ve seen Rep. Ilhan Omar herself receive death threats, and someone here from New York actually said they will put a bullet through her skull. …We see the reports of hate crimes and bigotry against people and sadly, within our communities. … there are a lot of hate crime incidents that are actually under-reported because people are afraid to go to law enforcement. “
Trump joins the attack on Omar
The day after the Post’s front page appeared, Donald Trump took the attack on Rep. Omar eve further. He tweeted the same out of context quote with video footage from the 9/11 attacks and the words, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET.” Newspapers like the Post have provided Trump with his context for inciting Islamophobia.
In a statement posted on Twitter two days later, Omar said she had “experienced an increase in direct threats” on her life in response to the President’s tweet.
Demanding apology, firing of Post editor-in-chief
YAMA is demanding that the Post make a public apology to Rep. Omar, Muslim-Americans, and minorities whose culture the Post has similarly sensationalized; that the newspaper abandon its overblown tabloid tactics in its effort to sell papers; that the Post fire its Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Lynch; and that elected officials “stop giving the New York Post any platforms to spread hate and racism,” said Almontaser.
The boycott is scheduled to last until Mary 13, “until we hear from the Post,” said Almontaser. “And if we don’t hear from them on our demands, we are ready to take further action.” This could include “identifying some of their advertisers and getting their advertisers to pull out. For example, you have Mercedes and Nordstrom, and we are saying to them, ‘you are directly subsidizing hate,’ and we are requesting them to choose between their customers around the world and this agent of hate and violence: the New York Post.”
Almontaser said the boycott is receiving wide support “not only by the American Muslim community but nationally.”
‘They don’t care what the outcome is’
It is not just store owners who are outraged. Mohammed Alsabri, an Uber driver, is a co-organizer of the boycott. President of a local group for Yemeni-American ride share drivers, he has been visiting Yemeni-owned bodegas and delis, distributing flyers and explaining the boycott’s aims to owners who haven’t heard about it yet. Of the 10,000 convenience stores in this city, some 4,000 to 6,000 are owned by Yemeni-Americans.
Alsabri supports the boycott because he was “shocked” by the Post’s attempt to incite “bigotry and racism among New Yorkers.” He explained, that the Yemeni community “support[s] the First Amendment and we support a free press, even if your opinion is different than the facts or what the reality is.” But this newspaper cover was “meant to incite,” he explained. “A lot of people, they have this ignorance and they just believe what they read on Twitter from this crazy president, or in this paper… . And they can act on it.” They can harass, discriminate against, and violently attack Muslims on the basis of what they see at the newsstand, or on the president’s newsfeed.
Others in the community agree. The Post is “propagating hate and they don’t care what the outcome is, they don’t realize the magnitude of the hate they are spreading,” said Husam Kaid, 19, who works part time at his family’s bodega in Midtown.
This is not the first time the Yemeni community has taken a stand. In 2017, Yemeni-American bodega owners staged a one-day strike and rallied with Yemeni workers, their families and communities in the thousands in downtown Brooklyn against Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
More anti-Islamic hate crimes under Trump than under any other president
Meanwhile, Trump’s Tweet disparaging Omar and distorting her comments based upon the Post cover is seen by his advisers as the opening shot in a re-election campaign based upon manufacturing an Islamic peril, much as he did in 2016, and specifically targeting Omar.
This is not just the worst kind of electioneering. Researchers have found strong statistical correlations between the number of Islam-related tweets made by Trump in a single week and the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes that took place in the days and weeks that followed. Trump has presided over more Islamophobic hate crimes than any other president, even more than George W. Bush, who was President during the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Distortions of 9/11 scapegoating Omar can be found of on the other side of the Congressional isle as well. While many leading Democratic politicians issued some form of support for Omar, and condemnation of the Presidents anti-Islamic tweet, New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, a Democrat, attacked Omar. “As a Senator who represents 9/11 victims, I can’t accept any minimizing of that pain.” This contributed to the misinformation surrounding Omar.
Muslims who died at World Trade Center
Gillibrand has accepted the misappropriation of the image of the Twin Towers by the rightwing as anti-Muslim trope. This ignores the fact that least 28 Muslims were killed in the World Trade Center, including some who died saving the lives of others. It ignores the fact that the attack was condemned worldwide by almost all Muslim leaders and groups.
Other facts conveniently ignored: Worldwide, Muslims are most likely to be the victims of terrorism, and the U.S. government is likely to be the funder of their attackers. But a little thing like the facts has not stopped the corporate media as a whole from inciting racism against Muslims.
New York Times also fans Islamophobic flames
The Post is well known for its right wing slant. But it is not alone. The entire corporate media has whipped up Islamophobia. Take the establishment and “liberal” New York Times. The media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting traced the phrase “renounce violence” in the Times over 10 years. They found that “95 percent of the time the demand is made of Muslim organizations, people or political parties. There are zero instances of anyone in the Times—whether reporters quoting officials or columnists—from March 28, 2009, to March 28, 2019, insisting or suggesting that the United States, Israel or any white-majority country ‘renounce violence.’”
‘Terrorism’ defined as Muslim political violence
FAIR has shown in many reports that this same media unjustifiably reserves the word “terrorism” “overwhelmingly for political violence leveled by Muslims. It points out that the corporate media paved the way for Trump’s Muslim ban and other xenophobic moves. Trump “exploits an irrational fear that media have spent at least 15 years conditioning,” FAIR says. This media watch group calls far-right trolls such as Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, Steve Emerson, Breitbart, Infowars and others who helped Trump create a Muslim-fearing climate, the “Islamophobia industry.”
This is all the more reason for people from coast to coast to stand up to Islamophobia and all forms of racism, and to say with one voice, “We stand with Ilhan.”