The daughter of a radical Islamist operative is a state co-chair of presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Sanders named Abrar Omeish, daughter of Libyan-born jihadist sympathizer Esam Omeish, as a co-chair of his Virginia campaign on February 18.
On her own merits, the 24 year-old Abrar Omeish is of little political consequence. She is the youngest person to ever hold office in the state, having been elected in 2019 to the Fairfax County School Board. Her role on the campaign appears to be a Sanders gesture to a more powerful political constituency: the well-organized radical Sunni Islamist networks across the United States. Abrar Omeish’s father is former president of the Muslim American Society, a group identified by federal prosecutors as the “overt arm” of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.
The elder Omeish is best known in Virginia state politics for having been removed from a Virginia Immigration board by then-governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat, after a video surfaced of Omeish endorsing violent jihad against Israel.
Esam Omeish also served on the board of Dar al Hijrah mosque, a Falls Church, Virginia-based mosque with a long history of ties to terrorism finance. Omeish has also been accused of links to terrorism by a Libyan parliamentary security committee. He is a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Advancing what her father started
The younger Omeish appears to have followed in her father’s footsteps, including in affiliating with Muslim Brotherhood groups. She has been noted for close ties to the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) an Islamist think tank once raided by federal law enforcement over ties to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fundraising. Abrar served as president of the Muslim Brotherhood-founded Muslim Students Association while at Yale University, participating in an effort to deplatform Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an author and former Muslim who campaigns for women’s rights.
Abrar Omeish is not the first Muslim leader with Islamist ties to serve as a surrogate for the Sanders campaign but is another example of the growing political alliance between Islamists and socialists.
Perhaps Sanders’ most famous surrogate is New York-based Islamist activist Linda Sarsour, who was expelled from the Women’s March following controversy over her antisemitism. Others include Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both of whom have faced repeated controversies over antisemitic and inflammatory remarks and Islamist ties, have also endorsed Sanders. Sanders was also one of only two candidates to attend the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), another Muslim Brotherhood-linked organization. In 2017, Sanders’ surrogate Sarsour used the ISNA stage to call for a “jihad” against Donald Trump.
Well-organized cadre for voter mobilization
Sanders’ Muslim outreach efforts may be paying off. Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations have run the most effective get-out-the-vote campaigns among ordinary Muslims in America for more than two decades, usually in concert with “progressive” Democrats and small but effective socialist organizing committees. In Iowa, where Sanders finished first, the Vermont Senator picked up significant numbers of delegates at Iowa mosques serving as satellite caucus locations.
One of Sanders’ other Virginia co-chairs is the state’s only openly Democratic Socialist, Delegate Lee Carter. While Virginia has a Muslim population of about 200,000 (roughly 2%), the population is most heavily concentrated in the Democratic strongholds of Northern Virginia where Sanders’ Virginia co-chairs are located, including Fairfax, Loudon and Prince William counties, where the Muslim percentage of the population approaches 5%.
While it is unclear how Muslim voters in Virginia will turnout, EmgageUSA, an Islamist political advocacy group with ties to Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, claims that Muslim voter turnout in Virginia reached nearly 70% in the 2016 general election. If true, Muslim voter turnout in Virginia was significantly better than Muslim voter turnout nationally, which Pew polls put at roughly 44%.
Whether Sanders’ strategy will be effective or not remains to be seen. A Monmouth poll currently puts Sanders tied with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg ahead of Virginia’s March 3 Super Tuesday primary. But Sanders has certainly staked much on the belief that siding up to Islamist leaders will deliver Muslim voters, and victory.