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School board member encourages kids to remember ‘jihad’ in graduation speech

School board member encourages high schoolers to remember ‘jihad’ as they ‘enter a world of white supremacy and capitalism’ during graduation speech

  • Fairfax County School board member Abrar Omeish addressed the graduating class at Justice High School in Virginia on June 7
  • Omeish touted various progressive initiatives at the school, such as the equity club and recognition of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
  • She called on the students to remember the struggles of their upbringing, using the Arabic word ‘jihad’ 
  • Jihad means the fight against enemies of Islam, or refer to the more internal struggle or moral struggle 
  • Omeish has faced previous controversy for comments she made that were critical of Israel 

A Virginia school board member called on graduating students to remember ‘jihad’ at their commencement as she warned they were entering a world of, ‘racism, extreme versions of individualism and capitalism, [and] white supremacy.’  

In a speech interlaced with parts in Spanish and Arabic on June 7, Abrar Omeish, the sole Muslim member on the Fairfax County school board told the graduating students of Justice High School that: ‘The world sees the accolade, the diploma, the fruit of all your years yet be reminded of the detail of your struggle.’ 

She then repeated the saying in Arabic, using the word ‘jihad’ for struggle, which can also refer to an inner spiritual struggle or a fight against the enemies of Islam. 

Omeish repeatedly referred to the group as the ‘Justice Class of 2021,’ and said she hoped they would serve as a vehicle for various progressive values the school had instilled in them, saying: ‘Our world is overwhelmed with need. 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.’

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

Omeish touted various progressive initiatives at the school and said she hoped the students would act as vehicles to bring them into the world

Omeish touted various progressive initiatives at the school and said she hoped the students would act as vehicles to bring them into the world

‘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 touted various progressive initiatives at the school such as 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.

In 2017 the Fairfax school board voted to change the school name from J.E.B. Stuart High School to Justice, despite a school community survey that overwhelmingly favored keeping the school’s original name. Omeish was elected to the board in 2019.

She also appeared to make reference to a recent controversy she had been embroiled in which she faced backlash for tweet critical of Israel in which she said that it, ‘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

Omeish recently faced controversy and calls for her to resign for a tweet critical of Israel 

The backlash was such that the Fairfax County Republican Committee called on Omeish to resign.

She appeared unbowed in her speech, however, saying, ‘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. 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. 

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