Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman has apologized for making antisemitic and anti-gay comments on Facebook from 2011 to 2013, calling Israelis “dogs” and speaking approvingly of Hitler.
Osman, who was elected in the 6th Ward in a special election in 2020 and is up for re-election in 2023, took to Facebook in October 2012 to argue in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage.
He also wrote, “Voting yes means you against this discussing (sic) act” and said gay marriage “will invite end of days.”
The following month, Osman wrote in Somali, “May god damn these non-Muslims” and CNN for “kissing Israel’s a**. Jews will never be pleased unless you follow their ways.”
After someone agreed with him, Osman replied in Somali, “Where’s Hitler when you need him?”
In September 2011, Osman wrote on Facebook, “We live in the United States of Israel” and said former President Barack Obama shouldn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize, calling him a “slave of the Jewish lobby, AIPAC. LONG LIVE PALESTINE!”
AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group that advocates for pro-Israel policies in America.
In January 2013, Osman posted a video from a pro-Palestine website about “Israeli Jews assaulting Africans in Tel Aviv” and wrote “I can see why Palestinians don’t want (to) share land with these dogs.”
Osman has said on social media he plans to run for re-election.
Asked about the posts, Osman apologized in a statement to the Reformer.
“Over a decade ago I made comments about the Jewish community, Israel, and the GLBTQ+ community on social media. I explicitly and absolutely repudiate and disavow everything about these comments. It does not reflect how I feel about Jewish people or faith or the GLBTQ+ community. The friends and allies I have in the both of these communities expect more of me, and I am sorry to them.”
Osman said he doesn’t recall making the comments, but said “The heat of social media has a tendency to invite inflamed commentary, responses when you’re ignorant about issues, and sometimes to depersonalize and dehumanize the people who you interact with.”
The posts were deleted in October, after the Reformer reported on his wife’s connections to a child nutrition program that federal prosecutors say is riddled with fraud.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey released a statement saying Osman’s comments were “divisive and dangerous for Jewish and LGBTQ people.” He said Osman “apologized unequivocally and expressed deep remorse.”
“I forgive him, and trust he has learned from this,” Frey said. “In the age of social media, our public discourse can benefit both from recognizing our common humanity before making such comments and from forgiveness for people who make a sincere effort to repair harm they have caused.”
Osman said he’s grown and passed through several life stages since he wrote the posts. He graduated from college, got married and was exposed to diverse communities.
“Our neighbors deserve dignity and respect in all forms,” he said. “I have been shown countless examples of that in the years since these comments. These comments could not be further from how I hope to conduct myself every day on the council.”
He apologized to his constituents and his colleagues, particularly Mayor Jacob Frey (who is Jewish), Council President Andrea Jenkins (a transgender woman), Council Member Lisa Goodman (who is Jewish), Council Member Jason Chavez (who is gay) and to his aide Sean Broom (who has a Jewish family member).
“The things written hurt them individually and I am sorry for any ignorance I had and hope my growth since is evident to them and that they will continue to help me grow and learn,” he said.
Another candidate running for the seat, Abdirizak Bihie, has also publicly condemned gay marriage. He encouraged people to vote for the anti-gay marriage amendment in 2012 and to oppose Keith Ellison, who at the time was the DFL congressman from the 5th District.
“If he was a real Muslim he wouldn’t support men marrying each other,” Bihi wrote of Ellison, who is Muslim. Bihi did not answer a call and his voicemail box was full. His posts were still on Facebook as of Monday.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Muslim cultural norms and traditional readings of sacred texts often support a “heteronormative binary of gender identification and sexual orientation.” More than half of American Muslims, however, said “society should approve of homosexuality” according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center.
Tiger Worku and Kayseh Magan have also announced plans to run for the Ward 6 seat.
Osman could face a tough reelection. His wife, Ilo Amba, incorporated a nonprofit that reported feeding 2,500 children per day under a federal program that’s been rocked by allegations of fraud. Amba incorporated Urban Advantage Services in November 2020, registering its office at the south Minneapolis home she shares with Osman, and the nonprofit received $461,533 in federal reimbursements in 2020 and 2021. Amba applied for two more distribution sites, which were among 213 sites denied by the state this year.
Urban Advantage’s food distribution site was sponsored by Partners in Nutrition, a St. Paul nonprofit that state regulators shut down after some of the sites it sponsored were charged in connection with the $250 million fraud case.
Osman also took his name off another nonprofit called Stigma-Free International and turned it over to others who went on to bilk the feds of over $10 million for sites throughout Minnesota, prosecutors say. Neither Osman nor Amba has been charged with a crime.