Minnesota Elects Country’s First American Muslim Woman Legislator
Ilhan Omar last Tuesday became the first Somali-American Muslim woman elected to a state legislature, with a clear victory in Minnesota.
Omar’s biggest battle was fought during the August primary, when she defeated a 44-year incumbent to become the Democratic nominee. In the state House of Representatives, she will represent a diverse, liberal district that encompasses most of Minneapolis.
Her victory is seen as a win for progressive causes, and for electing more minorities and women to public office.
Omar was born in Somalia and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to the United States at the age of 12. She has said she was disappointed to find rampant racial and economic inequality and religious intolerance in the US.
“It is the land of liberty and justice for all, but we have to work for it,” Omar told The Huffington Post last month. “Our democracy is great, but it’s fragile. It’s come through a lot of progress, and we need to continue that progress to make it actually ‘justice for all.’”
The inequality in the US inspired her to become involved in politics as a teenager, fighting for justice in her community and for others across her state.
The 34-year-old mother of three campaigned on a progressive platform, advocating for affordable college, criminal justice reform, economic equality and clean energy.
The first bill she intends to introduce will call for automatic voter registration when adults turn 18 or get a driver’s license, she told HuffPost.
She recognized the historic significance of her candidacy and the milestones she had overcome to win the House seat.
“Oftentimes, you are told to be everything but bold, but I think that was important for me in running as a young person and running as someone who is Muslim, a refugee, an immigrant,” she said.
“To believe in the possibility that all of my identities and otherness would fade into the background, and that my voice as a strong progressive would emerge if I was bold and believed in that — that made a huge difference for me and my candidacy,” she added. – Huffington Post
According to another report, Ilhan Omar made history last Tuesday in the United States in more ways than one when she was sworn into the Minnesota House of Representatives: She became the first female Muslim and Somali-American legislator.
Omar, who serves House District 60B in Minnesota,held the Qur’an during her swearing-in ceremony, becoming the second person to do so after Minnesota Rep Keith Ellison, the first Muslim US congressman and contender for DNC chairmanship.
One photo, in particular, shows just how powerful this moment was and exactly why representation matters in the political system today. In this photo, Omar is seen standing tall — donning colorful accessories and her bright orange hijab — among a sea of white faces. This is a historic sight that doesn't come too frequently for young women of color and Muslim Americans, especially in politics.
The US Congress proves just how white, male and Christian dominated some of our political institutions are. The 115th Congress, which was sworn in on Tuesday, is the most diverse yet. Despite this, Congress is still about 80% male, around 80% white and about 8% are non-Christian. This is far from representative of the US when, according to the Washington Post, more than half of Americans are female and white non-Hispanics only make up about 63% of the country's population.
The new Congress includes a record number of 21 women. In addition, women of color serving in the US Senate quadrupled this year with Sen Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sen Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) inducted to the US Senate joining Sen.Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
Several Twitter users celebrated Omar's ceremony with pride: