Furious parents have spoken out against a school board member who told graduating high school students to remember ‘jihad’ as they ‘entered a world of white supremacy’.
Asra Nomani, a Muslim mom in the district, said the speech by Fairfax County School Board member, Abrar Omeish, was a ‘wake up call.’
‘Political Islam has joined with radical left to hijack our schools,’ she told Fox & Friends on Tuesday.
Nomani, and many other parents, spoke out after the comments by Omeish, the sole Muslim school board member, at the graduation event at Justice High School on June 7.
In English, Omeish told them that: ‘The world sees the accolade, the diploma, the fruit of all your years yet be reminded of the detail of your struggle.’
But when she repeated the speech in Arabic, she told students to remember their ‘jihad’ – a word meaning both ‘struggle’ and, specifically, holy war waged on behalf of Islam.
She also warned they were entering a world of, ‘racism, extreme versions of individualism and capitalism, [and] white supremacy.’
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Asra Nomani, a parent in the district, added, ‘Political Islam has joined with radical left to hijack our schools’
‘I think it’s important for your viewers to know that Abrar Omeish’s comments here are incendiary comments, are not the first example of divisive and anti-Semitic rhetoric,’ parent Gary Aiken (right) said on Fox & Friends
‘It was just really depressing,’ Nomani said of the speech.
Nomani, former WSJ columnist, slammed the speech as ‘indicative of radicalization’ at ‘school boards and school districts and schools across the country, from principals to teachers to political operatives like [Omeish].’
‘The script was written years ago,’ Nomani added. ‘Omeish, I know her very well, I’m also a Muslim … her father and the elders of the community that brought her to office are part of this network of political Islam in America that has joined together with the far left in order to create a trojan horse … to basically hijack our schools with their radical ideology.
‘It’s something parents in Fairfax County, Virginia are very alarmed about … this is a wake-up call to everyone across the country that they’ve got to be vigilant in our school districts,’ Nomani concluded.
Another dad of a Fairfax student branded Omeish’s statement as ‘incendiary.’
‘I think it’s important for your viewers to know that Abrar Omeish’s comments here are incendiary comments, are not the first example of divisive and anti-Semitic rhetoric,’ parent Gary Aiken said on Fox & Friends.
According to his Twitter account, Aiken was a former candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Aiken went on to claim that Omeish had posted anti-Semitic tweets on her social media pages.
‘And this caused huge outrage among over 250,000 Jewish Americans here in Northern Virginia and it sparked outrage across all political lines and there were calls for her to apologize,’ Aiken continued. ‘She offered no apology. She doubled down on it.’
He also claimed that it was ‘absurd’ to think that Omeish didn’t represent the school while making her comments and that nobody proofed her speech.
Abrar Omeish, the sole Muslim member of a school board in Virginia told graduating students at Justice High School to remember the ‘jihad’ of their upbringing at their commencement on June 7
A petition calling for Omeish’s removal is circulating following her COVID-19 response
In addition to Aiken’s comments, a petition is circulating for the recall of Omeish, although that has to do with her opposition to fully reopening schools in the district in response to the coronavirus.
‘At some points, I was fighting hard to stay closed and at other points, I was fighting to stay open,’ Omeish told Reston Now.
‘My commitment without question has always been about balancing the safety and wellbeing of our students for their academic success.’
Her Libya-born father Esam Omeish, a surgeon, was forced to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration in 2007 when video emerged from the year before, showing him condemning Israel and advocating ‘the jihad way.’
His daughter, who was previously called to resign for an anti-Israel tweet, said the school was her father’s alma mater, and told the graduating class that they were entering a world ruled by white supremacy and capitalism.
‘We struggle with human greed, racism, extreme versions of individualism and capitalism, white supremacy growing wealth gaps, disease, climate crisis extreme poverty amidst luxury and waste right next door, and the list goes on,’ she told the group.
‘The world may try to quiet you by deciding for you what’s cool, what’s weird, what is or isn’t objective. It may try to convince you that what you hold dear is too different to be accepted. But who gets to decide?
‘You are walking into a world that will be uncomfortable when you seek to cause good trouble. And that may seek to intimidate you or make you think the truth is controversial,’ she said.
‘Every part of your being may scream in rage at the ways others have wronged you,’ but ‘let compassion for your fellow human beings, not anger or rage — and believe me this is hard to do — fuel you.’
Omeish, who was 24 when she won her place on the board in November 2019, making her one of Virginia’s youngest elected officials, has touted various progressive initiatives at the school.
She has promoted a Black History Month assembly that ensured, she said, ‘that we confront our history and answer honestly about the ills of our past.’
Others included the school’s first-time recognition of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year, and the school’s Equity Club, which she said had become a standard in the Fairfax School District.
She also sparked controversy recently for her tweet attacking Israel.
On May 13, she posted: ‘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.’
Omeish recently faced controversy and calls for her to resign for a tweet critical of Israel
The tweet sparked such strong backlash that the Fairfax County Republican Committee called on Omeish to resign.
Instead, she refused and hit out at her ‘haters’ calling them a ‘different breed’ of cheerleader.
‘No matter how many haters emerge, I’m sure you’ve encountered them yourselves, and believe me they’re a sign you’re unsettling the status quo towards justice,’ she said.
‘Just consider them your cheerleaders of another breed. When they try to bury you, remind them you are a seed.’
The Daily Mail reached out to Omeish for comment.
In 2017 the Fairfax school board voted to change the school name from J.E.B. Stuart High School to Justice High School, to lose the name honoring a famous Confederate general.
The name was changed after a group of students approached Sandy Evans, the school board’s Mason District representative, in 2015 after learning about the role that Jeb Stuart – as he was known – played as one of General Robert E. Lee’s most trusted generals.
The students’ calls to rename their school gained traction when film and TV producer Bruce Cohen and Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore, who had both attended Stuart, started an online petition suggesting Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s name as a substitute.
Created on July 31, 2015, the petition on Change.org attracted nearly 40,000 supporters.
But the debate about the renaming continued for two years. Those who supported a new name argued the school should no longer be named after a Confederate general who fought to preserve slavery. Opponents decried the effort as a costly attempt to rewrite history.
The board voted seven to two, with two abstentions, to change the name in July 2015, during a raucous meeting that included an appearance by Civil War reenactors dressed in Rebel and Union army costumes.
The high school is one of the most diverse in Fairfax, with more than 78 per cent of the school’s 2,130 students being either Hispanic, black, Asian or multiracial, while whites comprise 22 per cent, according to The Washington Post.
Omeish was elected to the board two years after the name change, following a campaign in which she stated that she was the first Libyan-American elected to any office nationwide.
While campaigning, in March 2019, she was stopped by police for turning right on a red light at a Fairfax intersection.
She alleges she was a victim of police brutality and discrimination after being pepper-sprayed and dragged from her car after a traffic stop and later forced to remove her headscarf.
The police said she refused to provide her identity documents. When she was arrested, they said they followed procedure by taking one booking photo without her headscarf, and one with, while screening her from sight.
‘It makes no logical sense to me that, within three minutes, an officer would have to pull mace and that it would escalate and devolve into everything it was that night, over a minor traffic violation,’ she told The Washington Post at the time.
Police body camera footage from March 2019 shows Omeish being arrested
She was maced and dragged out of the car in the incident, which she described as excessive
Omeish grew up in Virginia – her father left Libya when he was 15, settling in Fall’s Church. Her mother is a scientist, with a PhD in molecular genetics.
She attended Robinson Secondary school in Fairfax, Virginia, and went to Yale for her undergraduate degree. She then studied for a master’s degree in public policy at Georgetown University, on a full scholarship.
She worked at a human rights law firm in Tysons and as a substitute teacher before being elected to the board, and 10 years ago launched a nonprofit, GIVE, to help disadvantaged children with education.
In 2019 she spoke at International Institute for Islamic Thought – a Virginia-based group, co-founded by Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, which in 2002 was raided in connection with investigation into financing of terrorism.
Her photo remains on their website.
In 2020, she was Virginia co-chair of Bernie for President.
From March to June 2020, she was on the Democratic National Convention rules committee.
Omeish’s father was an outspoken, at times controversial, activist.
Esam Omeish, father of Abrar Omeish, is pictured speaking at a memorial service in November 2018 for his friend, Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by Saudi forces inside the consulate in Istanbul
In 2005 he was president of the Muslim American Society, a group identified by federal prosecutors as the ‘overt arm’ of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.
Some anti-terror groups have for years been critical of the Muslim American Society, alleging that it is essentially a front group for Islamic radicals and citing links to the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular movement in the Muslim world that advocates the formation of Islamic governments in the Middle East.
He said the Muslim American Society was formed as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood but now is completely separate. He praised the Brotherhood for taking what he said has been a more moderate outlook in recent years.
Asked if the society agrees with the U.S. government’s designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups, Omeish said, ‘We are Americans. We stand by the position of our government.’
He added that ‘the Palestinian cause is a just cause.’
He also served on the board of Dar al Hijrah mosque, a Falls Church, Virginia-based mosque which critics say has a long history of ties to terrorism finance.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American terror financier killed by a drone strike in 2011, was hired in 2001 to be the imam at the mosque. Two of the September 11 hijackers briefly prayed there.
The mosque condemned Al-Awlaki, saying they had no idea of what he would later become.
Al-Awlaki left the U.S. in 2002, moving first to London and then to Yemen.
Omeish touted various progressive initiatives at the school and said she hoped the students would act as vehicles to bring them into the world