Women’s rights activists Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani have accused four female Democratic senators of ignoring them during a committee hearing last week, complaining the lawmakers did not ask them a single question.
“This wasn’t a case of benign neglect,” Ali and Nomani wrote, in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday. “What happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women” in Muslim communities.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing was titled, “Understanding the Tools, Tactics, and Techniques of Violent Extremism.”
Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and ranking Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., invited Ali, Nomani and two other witnesses to testify. Hirsi Ali and Nomani are outspoken critics of attitudes and policies that marginalize women in Islamic societies.
But the witnesses, in their joint op-ed, accused Sens. McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., of not asking either of them “a single question.”
Hirsi Ali and Nomani added: “Just as we are invisible to the mullahs at the mosque, we are invisible to the Democratic women in the Senate.”
“It is inexplicable that the other senators didn’t utilize their time to speak with these two women,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told Fox News. “I appreciate the courage they have to speak up.”
But a spokesperson for McCaskill pushed back on Hirsi Ali and Nomani’s claims, telling Fox News that McCaskill agreed to invite both women to testify because of their “experience” with the subject matter.
The hearing also took place on the same day as the shooting at a congressional baseball practice that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and several others injured.
“Given time constraints, and the fact that a potential terrorist attack occurred several miles away just hours before the hearing, [McCaskill] chose to direct the majority of her questions that day to Michael Leiter, the former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Democratic and Republican administrations, and one of the world’s foremost experts on counterterrorism,” McCaskill spokesman Drew Pusateri told Fox News.
Johnson had pointed out the lack of questions directed to the other witnesses halfway through last week’s hearing.
“This has been a little bit unusual hearing so far, we have four witnesses and all of the questions have been addressed to Mr. Leiter—listen, I appreciate your expertise and service to this country,” Johnson said, to which Leiter offered to “step out” of the hearing.
“No, no, no—I want you there,” Johnson added.
John Lenczowski, the founder and president of Institute of World Politics, also was on the panel.
Harris declined to comment, and the offices of Hassan and Heitkamp did not respond to Fox News’ request for a response.
An aide for the minority side of the committee noted that while the Democratic senators directed their questions to other witnesses, only two of the eight Republican senators — Johnson and Daines — attended the hearing and participated in questioning.
But Nomani told Fox News that she and Hirsi Ali understood the “human circumstances” for their absence, but were disappointed by the approach of the Democratic senators who did attend.
“The silencing of Ayaan and me through the act of omission, and ignoring our presence, is just ironic considering this is the grievance that Democratic feminists level against their critics and their opponents,” Nomani told Fox News. “I was prepared for aggressive conversation and debate, but I just was shocked to see how I somehow put on an invisible cloak when I walked into the hearing room from the perspective of the Democratic senators who champion women, and battle to be heard.”
Nomani told Fox News she and Hirsi Ali are “committed” to working with the committee and plan to continue meeting with both majority and minority staffs.
An aide from the minority staff said they had invited Nomani in for a meeting, but it has yet to be scheduled.