MINNEAPOLIS – A Muslim woman made history on Tuesday, November 8, becoming the country’s first Somali-American legislator, securing an easy win in Minneapolis district.
“It’s the beginning of something new,” said Ilhan Omar, who faced only nominal Republican opposition in a heavily Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Minneapolis district, Star Tribune reported on Wednesday, November 9.
“This district has a legacy of making history. I am excited for our progressive values and to be able to be on the ground at the Capitol representing the diverse people of my district and being a champion with them and for them.”
The 33-year-old Omar was born in Somalia before she fled to the US to escape civil war.
She stayed for four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before ultimately moving to the Somali-American neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside, where she has lived for nearly two decades and is currently director of policy initiatives at Women Organizing Women.
Though she is a Muslim, she ran a campaign grounded in progressive agendas predicated on standing up for all Americans, regardless of faith or lack thereof.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said Omar’s victory is a statement about the state’s future: “It says something important about the future of Minnesota, and what it means to be a Minnesotan.”
Omar said the district has rallied around her in the face of the scrutiny.
She said her family has remained steadfastly with her, and alleged the marriage story was a “political con” meant to derail the progress of the kinds of people she will represent, including the Somali-American community.
“I feel like I have answered all of the questions — mostly rumors — in the statements that I have put out,” she said.
DFL leaders have stood by her, and local supporters remain committed as ever.
Hodan Adan, a mom who lives in the district and an Omar supporter, said an East African Muslim woman at the Capitol will inspire other women in the Somali émigré community, who are working hard to find their niche in Minnesota.
“We’re a minority in this country,” Adan said.
“I am glad we see a role model for many women and students. I want a woman and someone from our community to win.”