Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Somali-American who is set to become one of the first Muslim women in Congress, says in a new interview that her election is a rejection of “religious bigotry.”
“In a time where there is a lot of religious bigotry, it’s almost perfect to have this counterbalance. My sister Rashida and I are from the heartland of America,” Omar said in an interview with Roll Call published Tuesday, referring to fellow incoming congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
“To be elected to Congress is a real rejection of that message,” she said.
Tlaib and Omar, who were elected earlier this month, will become the first Muslim women in Congress when they are sworn into office in January.
Omar, who came to the U.S. at the age of 12 as a Somali refugee, will succeed Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison and represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.
The incoming congresswoman spoke about a range of topics with Roll Call, including the diverse cast of Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate.
“The fact that we have diverse backgrounds; some of us are mothers, some of us are queer,” she said. “Whatever the case might be, those things are just a bonus that helps have a unique lens into creating policy that is more impactful.”
Omar wears a headscarf and has already teamed up with multiple lawmakers in an effort to reverse a centuries-old ban on head coverings in the House chamber.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and likely Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) have co-authored a proposal asking for the House to change the policy.
Omar would be the first member of Congress to wear a religious headscarf if the rule is altered.