Somalian-born U.S. legislator-to-be Ilhan Omar confronts an islamophobe
BY LOU SIFA
In reference to the next Congress which will comprise two Muslim women, one of whom wears a hijab, American conservative pastor and radio show host E.W. Jackson stated during one of his recent programs that “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic.” Somalian-born legislator-to-be Ilham Omar, who wears a hijab, fired back elegantly but pointedly to the rant.
Jackson’s statement was unambiguously narrow-minded and vitriolic:
“We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that. And anybody that doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else. It’s very simple. Just go live somewhere else. Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on Sharia law.”
Somalian-born legislator-to-be Ihlan Omar, who this past November won Minnesota’s 5th district with a staggering 78 percent of the votes over her Republican opponent, fired back by tweeting on Friday:
“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America. And you’re gonna have to just deal.”
The notion of inclusion was one of several issues Omar addressed in her her victory speech on 6 November, She then she stated:
“Congress needs to make sure we are moving the country in a direction that is more hopeful, inclusive and prosperous.”
Jackson’s vitriol came against the backdrop of the prospect of changing a rule dating back 181 years that bans headwear on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Incoming Demoratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, seconded by the future House of Representatives Rules chairman Jim McGovern and Minnesota’s Ilham Omar, proposed relaxing that rule to allow religious headwear such as a hijab.
Despite this being the era of Trump whose anti-Muslim hate is no secret, Americans wasted no time in jumping in the debate triggered by Jackson’s tirade, calling him out squarely.
One of the notable reactions came from an equally well-known minister, the Rev. Dr. Chuch Currie who tweeted:
“As a Christian minister, let me say to U.S. Rep.-elect that your victory is a victory for pluralism and religious freedom. Bigotry is not a faithful response to God. My prayers are with you as you join Congress. Congratulations!”
According to a well-known polling organization, the Pew research, the Muslim population in the United States was estimated at 3.45 million in 2017, with a projection of Muslim Americans becoming the second largest religious group by the year 2040 after Christians—a position currently held by American Jews.
Ilham Omar, 37, is the first person born on the African continent to be elected to the U.S. Congress. Come January, she and Rashida Tlaib, who won Michigan’s 13th district to become the first woman of Palestinian origin to be elected to the big House, will join the only other congressman of their faith in Congress, Indiana Democratic Representative Andre Carson, who was re-elected on 6 November. (Keith Ellison, who did not run this year for Congress, and, instead won the local office of secretary of state, became in 2007 the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress.)
Omar and Tlaiab may have made history by becoming the first Muslim women elected to the U.S. Congress, but they did not run on the basis of their faith. They ran on the progressive platform of the Democratic Party in districts that are majority white and non-Muslim, as strong advocates of policies that will serve the interests of their constituencies, including the extension of Medicare health coverage for all Americans, increase of the minimum wage to $15, among other things.