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As Rep. Ilhan Omar is introduced to America, the religious right freaks out

E.W. Jackson, a former Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, believes Omar's very presence presents a threat to our nation. "The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic.”

E.W. Jackson, a former Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, believes Omar's very presence presents a threat to our nation. "The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic.” Getty

Ilhan Omar’s been getting a lot of national attention these days. Along with Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, she’ll be the first Muslim woman to serve in Congress -- and the only one to wear a hijab. So Democrats want to reverse a rule made in 1837 barring any sort of headwear on the House floor.

It would seem a rather innocuous move. One’s choice of head covering, after all, is the least of Congress’ worries.

But to the more triggered flank of the conservative movement, the very sight of a woman wearing a hijab in these hallowed halls is a scary proposition indeed. Enter the Good Reverend E.W. Jackson of Virginia.

He’s the kind of guy who thinks yoga leads to Satan, that liberalism is worse than the Klan, and that gayness is a form of illness. These beliefs naturally propelled him to the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2013. The people of Virginia wisely selected option B.

He’s now a church bishop, radio show host, and – perhaps in a message from God – failed GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate this year. And he’s clearly worried about our congresswoman-elect from Minneapolis.

“The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic,” Jackson announced on his radio show last week.

Jackson, like many on the right, is a strident supporter of religious freedom and free speech. He’d just prefer to be the guy deciding who’s worthy of that freedom.

“The fact that we’re electing these people to Congress and electing them to office is just beyond the pale,” he said. “Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the freedom of religion. I believe in the First Amendment. But I’ll tell you what: I’m not voting for a Muslim to serve in any office. Me, personally, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. Period. I’m not doing it.”

It’s the kind of rhetoric Keith Ellison endured during his years as Minneapolis’ congressman. He served as the right’s essential Muslim boogeyman, accused of all manner of sordid acts, from black supremacy to being the handmaiden of international terrorists.

But Ellison is about to become Minnesota’s attorney general. America’s fearful need a new villain. Though Omar’s rather serene countenance would seemingly disqualify her for the role, a black lady in a hijab will not go unnoticed in circles prone to panic. Like certain Republican leaders from Virginia.

“We are a Judeo-Christian country,” Jackson said on his show. “We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity, and that’s that. And anybody that doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else… Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on Sharia law.”

Omar, of course, has never actually plotted to create an Islamic republic. She also forgot to enslave the white man, another scheme recently delivered unto her door. While no one assumes all Christians wish to enact the darker edicts of the Bible – Anyone wanna slaughter some Amalekite families today? – America’s 3.4 million Muslims are presumed to think in lockstep.

But for all her inadequacies in performing her new role as arch-viper, Omar has become quite good at brushing away the yipping dogs at her heels, with just the right blend of brevity and dismissiveness: