Dalia Al-Aqidi, Muslim candidate for Ilhan Omar’s seat, visits Israel

Dalia Al-Aqidi, an Iraqi-born Muslim immigrant to the United States, is running in the Republican Party primary election, hoping to clinch that party’s nomination to challenge Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District seat.

Fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime, Al-Aqidi sought refuge in the United States in 1993 and has since become a distinguished journalist and activist. Over the years, she worked with various news outlets, including Voice of America and Al-Arabiya, and served as a media adviser to the US Department of Defense in Iraq.

After observing what she considers to be divisive rhetoric from Rep. Omar, Al-Aqidi decided to run for Congress, aiming to represent a politics of inclusion rather than division.

In an interview with The Media Line’s Felice Friedson, she argued that her opponent’s approach is causing “irreparable harm” to both the United States and Minnesota. With her campaign now officially launched, Al-Aqidi is committed to bringing a change she believes is vital for the district and the country.

‘Our district is ground zero for antisemitism’

Dalia, what prompted your decision to take on Ilhan Omar at this time?

She does not represent the good people of Minnesota. Minnesotans and Americans, they are not [for] antisemitism. No, not at all. But her narrative, and that’s what she’s been painting that district, and painting that state and painting the country in a way, or a part of the country that are anti-Jewish and they are pro-Hamas and they are pro all of these terrorist groups, and somebody has to say no. Somebody has to correct the records. That’s why.

What gave you the impetus to do this now?

Look, I fled Iraq. I fled [the] brutality of Saddam Hussein. I know what terrorists could do, and I’ve been there, and I’ve suffered from it. And that’s why we fled the country, and that’s why we went to the United States of America.

I don’t want to live in a country like the United States of America and then someone else would want to import that culture to the new country, so I decided to come here to show solidarity with the Israelis, with the Jewish people to tell the Jewish people that you’re not alone. This is not your fight by yourself.

It’s us. Muslims; Christians; everybody should fight against terrorists. What we’re seeing is horrible. I mean, history would show who the people that Ilhan Omar and the rest who support terrorists under the pretext of human rights, history would show the side that they were on, and history would show that the good people with good hearts that would want to fight all of these atrocities and terrorism and the hatred who these people are.

So, I came here to say I’m with you. I feel you. Your pain is mine because I am a Muslim and I suffered from Islamists. I suffered from the murders and the killing and the tortures of radical Islamism. So, if I don’t fight with you, who do I fight with?

This is your first trip to Israel, so where have you been and what have you seen?

It’s sad that my first trip to Israel came under these horrific circumstances. I landed in Tel Aviv, and we stayed a few days in Tel Aviv. I saw the country. I spoke to people.

In our hotel, there were displaced Jews from the South, so I spoke to them. I spoke to the kids. I went to Jaffa. I saw the churches. I saw the mosques. I saw the synagogues. I wanted to feel how everybody feels. And then I came to Jerusalem, and that was the dream of my life. That was really the Holy Land. It’s the land of the three Abrahamic religions.

Yesterday, I was so emotional. I couldn’t find words, but I prayed there for peace for the Jewish people, for the innocent Palestinians who are themselves hostages of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Iran, [and] IRGC [the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]. These are victims as well.

Why do you think it is so difficult to convey that message particularly to the youth in America today?

The youth in America … we have a problem in our education system. We have a problem in our universities. The far left and the socialists are in charge of these big schools. That’s why now some of the big funders to these schools are saying, “Wait a minute. I’m donating every year for this school, and then my children who go to this school are anti-me?” This is the problem that we’re facing from the socialists and from the far left and the progressives.

Sadly, this is the truth, and we face this in Minnesota. We face this after George Floyd and what happened [afterward]. We saw our city burnt, and we’re trying. Someday, America will go back to what it used to be. The soul of America is not what you see on TV. It’s not what you see on the streets.

U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is seen in Statuary Hall ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ)

‘I understand the suffering of people’

Dalia, you became a journalist, so you’ve seen everything on the other side of the lens. How do you take that experience and use it now in the role of politics which you’ve been in and working in over the last few years?

I’ve been a journalist for 35 years, and honestly, and I always say it, throughout my life I’ve always wanted to be a journalist. I never thought about being a politician because I always wanted to hold politicians accountable for their acts.

I’ve been to war zones. I’ve covered Iraq. I’ve covered Afghanistan. I’ve covered so many terrorist attacks. I’ve covered you name it, so I understand the suffering of people. And I think it’s time for me, not like other politicians, not like Ilhan Omar who sits in a million-dollar house and says, yeah, free Palestine. OK, you want to free Palestine? Why don’t you go to Gaza and free Palestine from there?

Look at me, here I am under rockets, but I am showing my support. Why don’t you go show your support to your Hamas group? We all feel bad for the Palestinian kids. We see horrible, horrible pictures of kids dying. But who is the killer? It’s not Israel. These are the victims of Hamas. These are the victims of radical Islamism.

We were so close, so close to achieve peace with Israel; with everybody through the Abraham Accords. And guess what? What happened on October 7? Who doesn’t want peace between [the] Arabs and Israelis? If you just ask this question, you’ll get your answer.

Will the election race be a referendum on support for Israel?

The American government fully supports Israel. The American Congress fully supports Israel. The American Senate fully supports Israel. The American people fully support Israel. Israel is our closest ally, and originally, I am from the Middle East, and I know that it’s the only democracy in the Middle East so I don’t think that anybody could ever separate Israel from the United States.

It’s not about “we love you,” no! It’s about politics. It’s about common sense, and it’s about humanity. The Jews are being persecuted all over the world right now. Yesterday, did you see what happened in Russia? So, it’s ironic that Russia invaded Ukraine claiming to fight the Nazis. Look what they did [yesterday]. So, it’s all about politics.

I believe that people and countries and allies should stick together. And, coming from the US, the US point of view, I don’t feel that we should support allies that support terrorist groups like Qatar, like Turkey. Why? If you are a US ally, you can’t support terrorism. You can’t support the Islamic Jihad. You cannot support or pay one dime to pay a rocket that falls every day on some innocent person either here [in Israel] or like we saw in the hospital in Gaza.

History has shown that if the pressure gets too great, too many people are killed, and innocent people are killed in Gaza. The United States government, and in particular President Biden might not be able to withstand the media blitz on it and the internal pressure. What do you say to that?

President Biden, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with [him], and I have so many points that I disagree with [him], would not take a stand or would not pressure on the Israeli government now, because why did this happen? Did Israel start it? No! How come we should look at the action and then say oh, this wasn’t that bad and then say whoa! The reaction was that bad.

I was in Beirut in 2006 when Hizbullah kidnapped two soldiers, and I saw what happened. Lebanese people were sick and tired of Hizbullah because their country was destroyed. It was easy. It was very easy.

If really, really, all of the politicians that stand supposedly with the Palestinian people wanted that, wanted to save the blood of the kids we see on TV, they should have pressured Hamas to release all of the hostages and surrender. That’s the only way to save the Palestinian people.

What’s your impression of the North? What’s your impression of the escalation in Lebanon?

I truly believe that not Hizbullah [and] not Iran wants to be in a big war. Hizbullah, he wants to score points, and still, he wants to get funds from Iran and from Qatar and from others, just like Hamas [does]. So, at least he’ll say oh, we threw a couple of rockets, so we are with you. It’s all a stunt. It’s nothing but a stunt to play on people’s emotions.

Well, best of luck to you. Dalia, thank you for taking the time with me at The Media Line, and enjoy your first stay in Israel!

It’s my first trip, but it’s not my first day in Israel. I hope to do more. I hope to convey a message of peace to everybody; to the Palestinians, the innocent people of Palestine that are victims of Hamas, that are victims of the radical Islamism. These are the real victims, just like the Jews [are the victims]. Just like what I’ve seen in videos. Just like the messages I’ve seen [elsewhere].

We shouldn’t allow this to happen in this world. We shouldn’t!

Dalia, you were born in Iraq. You were living in a time of great duress. You went through periods of war. Tell me what you saw.

I saw death. I saw torture. But let me take you to 2014. I was covering… I was a journalist by then. In 2014, ISIS entered the city of Mosul and started persecuting Christians. I was born as a Muslim, and I launched a campaign, an international campaign and I went on air.

I said I am the Sunni Muslim [and] I am going to wear that cross to stand with the Christians of Iraq and to stand with the Christians of the Middle East. And I won’t take it off until every Christian goes back to their villages and cities. Yesterday, I put [on] the Star of David and I say I am a Sunni Muslim that I would wear the Star of David until of the hostages come back.

It’s not about religion. It’s about being a human being.

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