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Washington — Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib became emotional during a U.S. House hearing Tuesday as she read from one of the death threats that her office received since she was sworn in.

Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, was speaking during a hearing of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties focused on combating the rise of white supremacy in America.  

“I was totally excited and pleased when I heard about 49 Muslims killed and many more wounded in New Zealand,” Tlaib read from the letter, choking up and pausing before she was able to speak again.

“This is a great start. Let's hope and pray that it continues here in the good old USA. The only good Muslim is a dead one.”  

Tlaib said she was quoting from a letter addressed to herself and two other progressive freshman congresswomen — Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Olar of Minnesota, who is also Muslim.

Tlaib noted that the letter was copied to recipients including the U.S. Department of Justice, the president and Department of Homeland Security. 

Wiping away tears, she challenged an FBI official on the witness panel why such a threat wouldn’t be considered domestic terrorism under the law “if they’re targeting solely based on my faith and others and saying a good Muslim is a dead one?” 

“We get so many of them, and I keep asking what happens? What happens to these individuals? I’m being sincere,” Tlaib added. “I’m a mother, so I want to go home to my two boys.”  

She questioned why federal officials don’t seem to have enough “tools right now to bring these people in.” 

“You can see there’s a pattern,” she added, suggesting law enforcement isn’t expending enough resources on such cases. 

The bureau had about 850 pending cases of domestic terrorism as of about a month ago, including white supremacy cases, said Michael McGarrity, assistant director of counter-terrorism at the Federal FBI, said

“I can tell you the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, we are working hard,” McGarrity said. “If you think there’s another statute that’s needed, please come talk to the Department of Justice. Absolutely.” 

McGarrity noted that, in threat cases, he’d like to arrest the individual “before they do something.” 

“The men and women of the FBI are out here working this threat hard, and we arrest more of our subjects on domestic terrorism than we do international terrorism,” he said. 

Tlaib stressed that she respects freedom of speech, including those who question her faith but draws the line when it crosses into threatening speech or behavior. 

mburke@detroitnews.com

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