Somali-American Ilhan Omar set to be first Muslim woman in Congress

Somali-American Ilhan Omar set to be first Muslim woman in Congress
Ilhan Omar at a rally Photo: CNN Archives

In Summary

  • Ilhan Omar being a Democrat, stands a high chance at being elected into Congress in November.
  • Being an immigrant, woman, Somali and refugee, she is said to be Trump's "worst nightmare" waiting to happen, once elected.
  • Omar and her family fled Somali in 1991 due to civil war, moved to a refugee camp in Kenya before getting an opportunity to move to the U.S in 1995.

Ilhan Omar landed in the US as a refugee at 12-years-old, fleeing the war in her home country Somalia.

24 years later, Omar stands to make history in her adopted country this November if she wins the Minnesota 5th Congressional District election.

Making history, it seems is a normal thing as she was the first ever Somali-American elected legislator. This was through her win as a member the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016.

Many believe her win to congress is assured. This is because the Minnesota 5th District has voted blue, the Democrats, since the 1960s. This is the same party that Omar belongs to, just like the outgoing 5th District congressional representative, Keith Ellison.

Ellison is yet another trailblazer, being the first Muslim ever elected to congress.

Besides Omar, is Michigan’s 13th Congressional District nominee, Rashid Tlaib. She too is poised to make history as first Muslim woman in congress alongside Omar in November. Tlaib is however Palestinian-American. She is also a Democrat.

Omar’s challenger is Jennifer Zielinski, a Republican, but that doesn’t seem to worry her. On Twitter, she says her biggest opponent is islamophobia, racism, patriarchy, xenophobia and misogyny.

Critics claim that Ilhan is President Trump’s “worst nightmare” waiting to happen. Something she does not shy away from.

“I mean it seems like, you know, the president really has taken issue with immigrants, has taken issue with refugees, has banned Somalis from entering this country. And so I think it is a nightmare in itself to now have the person who is going to provide that check and balance — be a Somali, Muslim, refugee immigrant who he is now going to be held accountable for, and I couldn’t think of a bigger nightmare than that,” she said at an interview with The Intercept.

Omar is the youngest of seven siblings. They fled their homeland Somalia when she was eight-years-old and moved to a refugee camp in Mombasa, Kenya. After four years, they got the opportunity to move to the U.S, not knowing any English.

She gradually forged her way through, learning the language, acquiring an inherited U.S citizenship through her father, studying and eventually graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies from North Dakota State University.

She later embarked on a political career in a bid to represent marginalised communities better.

“I realised that we can’t just wish and hope and dream, that the politicians that currently represented the voices of marginalised communities would do better. And so I got tired of wishing and waiting, and decided to do it myself,” she said on CNN.

A working mom, a refugee, a public high school graduate, a policy analyst, a graduate student with debt are some of her attributes she uses in her campaigns, hoping to change the narrative and influence that eight-year-old refugee and any other marginalised individual who finds his/her situation as a hindrance from living their dream and impacting society.

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Story By Linda Ngari
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