Yemeni bodegas boycott New York Post over attacks on Ilhan Omar

Lois Beckett


A group of New York corner-store owners has announced a boycott on the sale of the New York Post, arguing that the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper’s attacks on congresswoman Ilhan Omar are making Muslim Americans less safe.

On Thursday, the Post published a front page featuring an image of the World Trade Center towers in flames on 11 September 2001 and a quote suggesting that Omar, a Somali American congresswoman from Minnesota who wears a hijab, had minimized the seriousness of the terror attacks in a speech last month.

Related: Ilhan Omar defended by Democrats after Trump uses 9/11 video in attack

In an open letter in response, the Yemeni American Merchants Association wrote that the front page “provoked hatred” and “aims to harm Omar and her family and other people of the Islamic faith”.

The group said it was calling on “all Yemeni American bodega and deli owners” as well as “our community and allies across New York City” to boycott the sale and purchase of the Post.

The association represents Yemeni Americans who own and run an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 of New York City’s thousands of delis and corner stores, which are known as “bodegas”. Such stores are integral to the daily life of most New Yorkers, a crucial source of late-night snacks, morning coffee and newspapers and magazines.

Repeated criticism of Omar by the Post, the Murdoch-owned Fox News, Republican politicians and Donald Trump has been condemned by progressive Democrats, including presidential contenders who called the attacks “dangerous” and said they risked “inciting violence”.

Last week, a Trump supporter from New York state was arrested and charged after making a death threat against Omar. On Friday, Trump tweeted a video featuring part of Omar’s remarks to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, cut with footage from 9/11. He retweeted the message on Saturday.

The Post published a brief story criticising the New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her defense of Omar.

In its letter, the Yemeni American Merchants Association said the New York Post was “undermin[ing] national unity and [enticing] violence and hate”.

It added: “This rhetoric threatens the safety and wellbeing of Omar, Muslim leaders, and the larger Muslim American community at a time when Islamophobia is at an all-time high.”

Ayyad Algabyali, the group’s director of advocacy, told the Guardian: “It’s not the first time that the New York Post basically spreads hate and fear in their newspapers.”

Selling the New York Post might bring merchants “a little profit”, he added, but it also means “you are committing to sell violence and hate in the community, and that’s totally unacceptable”.

There was “no end date” to the boycott, he said, adding: “This might be for good.”

Algabyali said news of the boycott had gone viral on Twitter, and that the group hoped other merchant associations might join in solidarity. The group had already received support from some Uber and Lyft drivers, he said, who were helping spread news about the boycott from one bodega to another.

This is not the Yemeni American Merchants Association’s first major political action. It was formed two years ago, in the wake of a a Yemeni bodega strike protesting Trump’s travel ban against several Muslim-majority countries.