Fairfax County School Board At-Large Member Abrar Omeish is at it again, stoking the flames of division by alienating another group.
In May, Omeish alienated the Jewish community with her social media posts. She subsequently had an award revoked by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. In June the Zionist Organization of American released a statement when parents contacted them after Fairfax County Public Schools failed to rebuke and punish her for using her school board position for personal and partisan gain, in violation of the FCPS Code of Conduct.
More recently it appeared Omeish was turning away from the Queer community, according to a news release by the Pride Liberation Project (PLP). The PLP is a student-run group of Queer and allied students in FCPS, who advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ students.
A delegation of Queer Muslim and Brown students met with Omeish in late June to discuss the challenges they face at school. “The Pride Liberation Project believed that this meeting would be a constructive way to start a conversation with Ms. Omeish about the prejudice that our community faces and the School Board’s role in supporting Queer students,” said the release. They were shocked when Ms. Omeish told them she does not believe she could “ever be a 100 percent ally” of their community. Additionally, Omeish implied that being Queer was a choice and she told the group it would be a “challenge” to provide an outward endorsement or encouragement of Queer students. “Over the course of our meeting, Ms. Omeish created a deeply hurtful and traumatic environment for members of Pride Liberation Project through her repeated insensitive statements,” they said.
After the PLP posted their news release July 16, Omeish responded with a lengthy statement. “I am sorry that these students feel the hurt they described after our most recent meeting,” she said. No student should feel harmed by any member of our community, let along someone in leadership that they look up to.” Additionally, Omeish said she’s had several private correspondences with the PLP since the meeting in late June.
Two days after PLP posted their initial news release Omeish tweeted, “Hate has no home here! Attacks on one must be personal to all. We stand together as OneFairfax. Let’s call out racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism & all othering. AND let’s act in solidarity. We stand up for freedom together. Love must prevail.”
Omeish and PLP garnered many replies on Twitter. “So no apology just an extensive letter letting people know she is sorry how they feel. She takes no accountability for her actions. She pondered this response for some time. I hope the amazing students in PLP see through this!” tweeted @peaceforall.
“I agree, this is not an apology. How does a politician who claims to be progressive chose these words: ‘I’m sorry these students feel the hurt they describe’ to serve as an apology?! I’ve supported Ms. Omeish too, but she should *own* the hurt she *caused* with her words,” tweeted @mrswifey.
In a follow-up statement, the PLP called Omeish’s statement disappointing in that she did not “commit to repairing her relationship with the Queer community.” They said she did not disavow her statements and apologize for the hurt they caused. She did not “acknowledge that you cannot be an equity ally if you are not a 100 percent ally of the Queer community.” The PLP further sought for her commitment to include Queer issues in her policy platform and “issue a broad affirmation of Queer students that went beyond a simply rejection of harassment.”
Omeish tweeted June 22 in response, “I repeat now & always: I reject & don’t ever accept misuse of my words for division or hate. When we feel unsettled, confused or have misunderstandings, we must be truth-seekers. It’s an opportunity. Let’s think critically, be curious & show compassion to advance all our kids.”
One Arab-American Muslim student said that Omeish “made them feel ‘helpless’” and called her statement “empty-worded”. The PLP called on her to issue a “direct and true apology that affirms the Queer community” and address the harm she caused in the June meeting.
In recent years, religiously conservative Muslims have put pressure on American Muslim leaders, such as activist Linda Sarsour, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Omeish, to distance themselves from supporting socially liberal LGBTQIA+ causes, for example, asking American Muslim politicians and activists to limit their support of Pride marches, same-sex marriage, transgender rights and the religious acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people. More religiously liberal organizations such as Muslims for Progressive Values and the Muslim Reform Movement have emerged with more religiously accepting interpretation about the LGBTQIA+ community.
“The Pride Liberation Project will continue to fight against politicians who tokenize student voices, and continue to hold Ms. Omeish and other elected officials accountable to protecting, supporting, and affirming LGBTQIA+ students,” they concluded.
Omeish is one of three school board members the Open FCPS Coalition is attempting to recall.