Abrar Omeish, a board member of the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia, US, told graduating students to remember the word “Jihad” as she warned they were entering a world ruled by “white supremacy”.
Addressing Justice High School pupils on June 7, Abrar Omeish told the students in English:
“The world sees the accolade, the diploma the fruit of all your years yet be reminded of your struggle.”
But when she repeated the speech in Arabic, she warned the pupils to remember the word “Jihad” – which means holy war in Islam.
Omeish warned the class that they were entering a world ruled by “white supremacy and capitalism”,
In her speech, she told students:
“We struggle with human greed, racism, extreme versions of individualism and capitalism, white supremacy growing wealth gaps, disease, climate change, extreme poverty amidst luxury and waste right next door and the list goes on.
“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.”
Omeish was elected on to the school board in November 2019 aged 24. She faced calls to resign after posting a tweet attacking Israel during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict.
Last month, she said: “Hurts my heart to celebrate while Israel kills Palestinians and desecrates the Holy Land right now.”
Omeish was the first Muslim woman to be elected on to the school board, she said at the time she felt she needed to speak up for Muslims.
“Being the only Muslim voice, I felt tremendous pressure and it’s not like I didn’t anticipate backlash.”
Her comments have received backlash on social media and parents have called for her to resign.
Committee chair, Melanie Meren said she was “aghast” and “appalled” as she branded Omeish’s remarks “alienating” to the community.
Reacting to the backlash, the school board released a statement saying Omeish had a right to her views.
A Fairfax County School Board spokesperson said:
“Individual School Board members have a First Amendment right to share their personal views at any public event at which they are invited to speak.
“Their personal opinions do not reflect or represent the views of the Fairfax County School Board or the school division.”