by Asra Q. Nomani
Exclusive: In 2019, Abrar Omeish canvassed for support at a fundraiser for the anti-Semitic group American Muslims for Palestine and said she wanted to change the “narrative” on Palestinians. She was elected to office and launched a tirade against the state of Israel, which she smeared as an “apartheid” nation, repeating the talking points of an anti-Semitic brigade in the Woke Army. Here is the full transcript.
Last month, at Luther Jackson Middle School, parents gasped as a Fairfax County Public Schools board member, Abrar Omeish, stumbled through a clumsy speech and called the historic battle of Iwo Jima “evil,” even though the decisive victory by U.S. Marines led to eventual victory by Allied forces against Japan and Nazi Germany and its leader Adolph Hitler, ending the brutal genocide of Jews in the Holocaust.
In the days after, the remarks sparked a national outcry, even spilling over globally, with Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears, a former U.S. Marine, assailing the remarks and a pair of comedians asking indelicately: “How did this clown get elected to a school board?”
Editor’s note: For Asra’s twitter conversation on the event see here.
I know the answer because I witnessed it happen, and the answer reveals an unholy alliance that I expose in my new book, Woke Army, between the Democratic Party and rigid anti-Israel, anti-Semitic establishment Muslim leaders in the United States. These establishment Muslims include activists, politicians, and academics — from Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), University of California at Berkeley academic Hatem Bazian. and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
What is particularly disturbing is that this Woke Army set its sights on K-12 schools and their children. School board member Abrar Omeish is Exhibit A in this dangerous alliance in K-12.
I saw it first-hand one Saturday night on Sept. 7, 2019, documenting the evening in video shared here for the first time.
Leaders from establishment Muslim organizations had gathered in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency in Arlington, Virginia, for a fundraiser for the organization, American Muslims for Palestine, dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In a lawsuit, Boim v. American Muslims for Palestine, the threads have emerged of its ties as “alter egos” to groups that have engaged in anti-Semitic extremism. Omeish didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Guests were waiting for the headliner: activist Mark Lamont Hill. CNN had just fired him for a speech he had given at the United Nations, calling for a new nation of Palestine from “the river to the sea,” a popular anti-Israel chant that is code for the destruction of Israel, sitting between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.
Instead, a surprise speaker stepped onto the stage behind the podium. She was a young woman in a white headscarf, and she introduced herself, saying, “My name is Abrar Omeish, and I am running for Fairfax County School Board at-large.”
She was a darling, literally, of Muslim Brothers who had established since the early 1980s an alphabet soup of organizations that I chronicle in my book, based at 500 Grove Street in nearby Herndon, Va., in Fairfax County, drawing the attention of law enforcement agencies for years for alleged terrorism financing.
Omeish, it would turn out, wasn’t concerned about failing schools or lifting lagging students up to standards. Her talk was about what she characterized as the lies of American public education, which she considered to be pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian. She spoke of a teacher fired from her position for promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, the controversial economic and political program — and cause célèbre of worldwide leftist organizations — that would pave the way for Palestinian statehood by crippling or destroying Israel economically.
Omeish started, “When we talk about the Palestinian issue, and it affects us deeply and families are affected, and we know how important it is to us.” Indeed, when she was a girl, in 2007, her father, Esam Omeish had resigned from a Virginia state commission to which former Gov. Tim Kaine had named him a member, after a video emerged of him saying that pro-Palestinians had to pursue the “way of jihad” in opposing Israel.
Two years later, in 2009, he ran for state delegate for the 35th district of the Virginia House of Delegates. He raised $143,734, with pals at the International Institute of Islamic Thought, based in Herndon, Virginia, and donations from the businesses connected to the network at 500 Grove Street, including Reston Investments, Mar-Jac Investments Inc., and Sterling Management Group Inc. His daughter canvassed for votes for him. Still, he lost.
At the 2019 fundraiser, the younger Omeish continued, deliberately, “These are conversations that start in the classrooms begin attending. These are conversations they are learning in their world history textbooks that they learn from a world history teacher. When they open a textbook, they read Muslims, terrorists, Middle East, Palestine…that word may not even be mentioned in the books. These are things that we have to get attention to on the local level right here. When a teacher is fired from her job for supporting BDS,” she said.
She was talking about the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement that is dedicated to using economic leverage to destroy the state of Israel.
“The narrative was controlled many years before, right? From the classroom the assumptions were made,” she said. “I really want to wake up our community.”
She had the crowd guess how much money the school board controlled. When answers came in at $3 million, she answered, “How about we change that ‘m’ to a ‘b’? The Fairfax County School Board manages $3 billion. That’s one school board in Northern Virginia. That’s over half of the Fairfax County budget. Okay, we’re talking big money.”
Sitting in the back, I was so stunned by the arrival of a school board candidate at such an anti-Israel event, I started videotaping her campaign speech. An anti-Israel leader, Taher Herzallah, stood in front of my phone camera, but it didn’t matter. I got the message.
A network of Muslims in America had their eyes now set not only on the corridors of power in the nation’s capital – with Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib in office – but they were now gunning for local races. And they were immersing themselves in a new movement in America to influence K-12 students. This was a Woke Army that was emerging in this unholy alliance between Islamist groups and school administrators, #RedForEd teachers’ unions and “social justice” activists. What has emerged is a wider indoctrination that goes way beyond issues of Israel and Jews, but it includes the agenda of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda because that is a priority for emerging leaders like Omeish. She won the endorsement of Justice Democrats, the same political interest group that propped up Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and others.
And while these ideologues have used fake identities to launch websites, like one called LoonWatch.com, to wage character assassinations on Muslim reformers, ex-Muslims, Israel and the United States of America itself, they now have the political capital to wage their war in the open. In an investigation, which I also reveal in my book, I learned that CAIR has funded, operated and run the LoonWatch website. (You can read about this part of my investigation in a column I published at UnHerd.)
As a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, I have been reporting for 20 years on a network of Muslims that has worked to penetrate the Democratic Party with their agenda from the White House to the U.S. Congress, through political action committees and organizations with tax benefits under section 501(c)4 of the U.S. tax code. Now what I was witnessing was their penetration into school boards. The organizations include MPower Change, led by Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who barred Israeli Jewish feminists from the Women’s March, arguing that Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “intersectionalism” makes Israeli feminists the oppressors over Palestinians.
Indeed, Omeish was a Virginia delegate for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and I sat front row in September 2019 as Muslims at a national convention of the Islamic Society of North America gave Sanders a standing ovation for supporting the right of people to support the BDS movement.
Their agenda isn’t the two-state solution of the 20th Century. Today, the movement is focused on a one-state solution, in which “Palestine” replaces Israel on the map with a right of return for millions of Palestinians from around the world.
On Election Day 2019, at the Elks Lodge off Little River Turnpike in Fairfax, there was electricity in the air. The Democratic Party was on the verge of winning back the state House of Delegates for the first time in 20 years. Local representatives of Emgage Action PAC, a Muslim political action committee that helped elect Omeish, cheered the Democratic sweep of the Virginia legislature. They had both stood silent and bemused as Linda Sarsour had her assigned bouncers block my way into Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s office months earlier. Now, they were grinning from ear to ear.
A few blocks away, at the home of the Omeish family, young women in headscarves were parking on the side of the road and dashing through the darkness to the back of a home. Inside, they stepped into a war room for political Islam in America, and the mood was joyous and festive. That night, Abrar Omeish, 24 and single, with no children, had just won her seat on the Fairfax County School Board. In the run-up to the election, she had galvanized the local Muslim community to flood a local school so she’d win the nod for the at-large school board position, unseating a stalwart in the Korean American community. Now, she had won in the general election, running on the slate supported by the Democratic Party. A delivery man brought pizza for the festivities.
Over the years, Islamists had exploited “critical race theory” to racialize any criticism of Islam or Muslims as “Islamophobia” and press their grievances. Now it was their opportunity to pounce to further their own agenda.
When it came time to celebrate the victory, Omeish’s father called the Muslim Brothers and their new stars – including Ilhan Omar – to a brunch at his home celebrating the younger Omeish’s election to school board.
(L-R) Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Esam Omeish (father of Abrar Omeish). Celebrating the election of Abrar Omeish to the Fairfax County Public Schools board in November 2019 at the home of Esam Omeish.
In a Facebook post, Omeish regaled in the celebration after a “wonderful night with the annual CAIR National banquet in D.C.”
And sure enough – in rhetorical assault after assault, against the state of Israel, 9/11 first responders, and America itself – Omeish has had the leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations beside her, its founder, Nihad Awad, even showing up to one rally.
On the occasion of Eid in May 2021, Omeish posted a selfie with two brothers and expressed the agenda of the Muslim Brothers of decades ago: the anti-Semitic destruction of the state of Islam. “Hurts my heart to celebrate while Israel kills Palestinians & desecrates the Holy Land right now. Apartheid & colonization were wrong yesterday and will be today, here and there,” she wrote.
Amidst anger over her tweet, she didn’t back down. Like her mentors Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, Omeish doubled down, and local members of the Fairfax Democrats and the Islamist network in Northern Virginia rallied for her “free speech” rights at a protest outside a school board meeting at Luther Jackson Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia. CAIR promoted the rally.
When I arrived, I saw familiar faces in the outer circle, surrounding the protesters; elder representatives from among the Muslim Brothers who had built their base in Northern Virginia, starting at 500 Grove Street. A young CAIR organizer bellowed from behind a megaphone against the “Zionists,” and behind her stood Nihad Awad, the co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The Muslim Brothers no longer depended on their anonymous disinformation LoonWatch page to push their propaganda. They got on the evening news that night.
Just before the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni was propped up by the Muslim Brothers at 500 Grove Street. He endorsed a training webinar by educator Amaarah DeCuir and posted on the official YouTube channel of the Virginia Department of Education.
In the nearly two-hour lecture, DeCuir told teachers to avoid calling the 9/11 hijackers “terrorists,” simply calling them “extremists,” but with no discussion of religion.
“It’s going to be important as we begin to plan our 9/11 lessons in a way that does not seek to reproduce anti-Muslim racism,” she said. “We’re not going to reproduce a false assumption of Muslim responsibility for 9/11. We’re just going to begin right there and name that there is no responsibility and therefore we’re not going to use this space to try and untangle this.”
The Virginia Department of Education was now engaged in state-sponsored propaganda work for the Woke Army.
“We’re also not going to reproduce what’s understood as American exceptionalism — this understanding that America is a land at the top of a beautiful mountain and that all other countries, nations, and people are less than America,” she said.
DeCuir’s propaganda was promoted by and parroted that of CAIR, Islamist sympathizers in the Woke Army intent on destroying the state of Israel and deflecting from the real issues of Islamic extremism. After an outcry by us, as parents, the Virginia Department of Education took down the video. But that didn’t deter the Woke Army.
From the dais on Sept. 11, 2021, Fairfax County school board member Abrar Omeish refused to vote for a 9/11 resolution honoring the victims of 9/11 and the first responders.
“The token phrasing around 9/11 is ‘Never Forget,’” she said. “As a nation we remember a jarring event, no doubt, but we chose to forget, as this resolution does, the fear, the ostracization, and the collective blame felt by Arab Americans, American Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus and all brown or other individuals that have been mistaken for Muslims since that day over the past two decades.”
Some issues transcend politics. Honoring the victims of 9/11 is one of those sacred issues. But @fcpsnews school board diva Abrar Omeish made 9/11 all about her grievances. @think_schultz + @_joemobley tell @foxandfriends @stevedoocy why local groups want her out. Please watch. pic.twitter.com/HdsaqNQUEI
— Asra Nomani (@AsraNomani) September 21, 2021
Omeish was doing her job in the Woke Army, playing the victim and the wound collector. Across the country, CAIR Chicago’s executive director was playing his part — now out in the open, out of the shadows of the LoonWatch disinformation network he had created. He published an op-ed in USA Today, laying out the same talking points of grievances that Omeish had outlined. “All in all, an emergent Islamophobia cottage industry that extended from outlandish blogs and think tanks to the halls of power defined a generation of Muslims as well as my entire career.”
For years, the Muslim establishment had used critical race theory as a shield to racialize Muslims and hide the corrupt ideas of puritanical Muslims from critique. While school officials denied critical race theory was taught in schools, Omeish was the first school board member to own it publicly, hosting a seminar in early 2022 on — what else — critical race theory in education.
By December 2022, the alliance between the Islamists and the wokeists brought the new Fairfax County superintendent, Michelle Reid, to Omeish’s mosque, Darul Hijrah, where women aren’t even allowed to pray in the main hall. But for this occasion, the CAIR communications coordinator, Ibrahim Hooper, and a stalwart in Islamist circles promoted the meeting on Twitter with great bravado.
Fast forward to now. Taking a cue from their grievance strategy, Omeish responded to the backlash against her remarks about Iwo Jima with a classic response: playing the victim, claiming critics embraced “the false assumption… that Muslim somehow implies anti-American.”
No, that’s not it. The evidence is there. Omeish has emerged as an undisciplined ideologue, causing more controversy than creating solutions. The verdict is in on Exhibit A of the Woke Army. Vote Omeish out, say parents.
Asra Q. Noman is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and the author of “Woke Army: The Red-Green Alliance Destroying America’s Freedom.” She is a senior fellow in the practice of journalism at Independent Women’s Network. She can be reached at email@example.com and @AsraNomani on Twitter.