Ilhan Omar
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Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar, official portrait, 116th Congress (cropped) A.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 5th district

January 3, 2019
Keith Ellison
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 60B district

January 2, 2017 - January 3, 2019
Phyllis Kahn
Mohamud Noor
Personal details
Born
Ilham Abdullahi Omar[1]

(1982-10-04) October 4, 1982 (age 38)
Mogadishu, Somalia
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Ahmed Nur Said Elmi[a]
(m. 2009; div. 2017)
Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi[b]
(m. 2018; div. 2019)
Tim Mynett
(m. 2020)
Children3; including Isra Hirsi
RelativesSahra Noor (sister)
EducationNorth Dakota State University (BA)
WebsiteHouse website

Ilhan Abdullahi Omar (born October 4, 1982) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district since 2019. She is the first Somali American, the first naturalized citizen of African birth, and the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in the United States Congress. She is also one of the first two Muslim women (along with Rashida Tlaib) to serve in Congress. She is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.[6][7][8]

Before her election to Congress, Omar served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2017 to 2019, representing part of Minneapolis. Her congressional district includes all of Minneapolis and some of its suburbs.

Omar is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has advocated for a living wage, affordable housing, universal healthcare, student loan debt forgiveness, the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She has strongly opposed the immigration policies of the Trump administration, including the Trump travel ban.[9] She has been the subject of several death threats, conspiracy theories, other harassment by political opponents,[10][11] and false and misleading claims by Donald Trump.[12][13]

A frequent critic of Israel, Omar has denounced its settlement policy and military campaigns in the occupied Palestinian territories, and what she describes as the influence of pro-Israel lobbies.[14][15][16]

Early life and education

Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 4, 1982,[17][18] and spent her early years in Baidoa, Somalia.[19][20] She was the youngest of seven siblings, including sister Sahra Noor. Her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, an ethnic Somali from the Majeerteen clan of Northeastern Somalia,[21] was a colonel in the Somali army under Siad Barre and also worked as a teacher trainer.[22][23] Her mother, Fadhuma Abukar Haji Hussein, a Benadiri (a community of partial Yemeni descent), died when Ilhan was two.[24][25][26][27] She was raised by her father and grandfather, who were moderate Sunni Muslims opposed to the rigid Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.[28][29] Her grandfather Abukar was the director of Somalia's National Marine Transport, and some of Omar's uncles and aunts also worked as civil servants and educators.[23] She and her family fled Somalia to escape the war and spent four years in a Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa County, Kenya, near the Somali border.[30][31][32]

Omar's family secured asylum in the U.S. and arrived in New York in 1995,[33][34] then lived for a time in Arlington, Virginia,[26] before moving to and settling in Minneapolis,[26] where her father worked first as a taxi driver and later for the post office.[26] Her father and grandfather emphasized the importance of democracy during her upbringing, and at age 14 she accompanied her grandfather to caucus meetings, serving as his interpreter.[29][35] She has spoken about school bullying she endured during her time in Virginia, stimulated by her distinctive Somali appearance and wearing of the hijab. She recalls gum being pressed into her hijab, being pushed down stairs, and physical taunts while she was changing for gym class.[26] Omar remembers her father's reaction to these incidents: "They are doing something to you because they feel threatened in some way by your existence."[26] Omar became a U.S. citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old.[36][26]

Omar attended Thomas Edison High School, from which she graduated in 2001, and volunteered as a student organizer.[37] She graduated from North Dakota State University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree, majoring in political science and international studies.[38][35] Omar was a Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.[39][40][41]

Early career

Omar with John Sullivan in Paris as part of Minnesota's World's Fair Bid Committee

Omar began her professional career as a community nutrition educator at the University of Minnesota, working in that capacity from 2006 to 2009 in the Greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. In 2012, she served as campaign manager for Kari Dziedzic's reelection campaign for the Minnesota State Senate. Between 2012 and 2013, she was a child nutrition outreach coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education.[42]

In 2013, Omar managed Andrew Johnson's campaign for Minneapolis City Council. After Johnson was elected, she served as his Senior Policy Aide from 2013 to 2015.[39] During a contentious precinct caucus that turned violent in February 2014, she was attacked by five people and was injured.[23] According to MinnPost, the day before the caucus, Minneapolis city council member Abdi Warsame had told Johnson to warn Omar not to attend the meeting.[43]

As of September 2015, Omar was the Director of Policy Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network, advocating for women from East Africa to take on civic and political leadership roles.[39] In September 2018, Jeff Cirillo of Roll Call called her a "progressive rising star."[44]

Minnesota House of Representatives

Elections

Omar, then a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives, speaks at a Hillary for Minnesota event at the University of Minnesota in October 2016
Omar at the Twin Cities Pride Parade in 2018

In 2016, Omar ran on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) ticket for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 60B, which includes part of northeast Minneapolis. On August 9, Omar defeated Mohamud Noor and incumbent Phyllis Kahn in the DFL primary.[45] Her chief opponent in the general election was Republican nominee Abdimalik Askar, another activist in the Somali-American community. In late August, Askar announced his withdrawal from the campaign.[46] In November Omar won the general election, becoming the first Somali-American legislator in the United States.[47] Her term began on January 3, 2017.[48]

Tenure and activity

During her tenure as state Representative for District 60B, Omar was an Assistant Minority Leader for the DFL caucus.[49][50] She authored 38 bills during the 2017-2018 legislative session.[51][52]

Committee assignments

  • Civil Law & Data Practices Policy
  • Higher Education & Career Readiness Policy & Finance
  • State Government Finance[53]

Financial transparency issues

In 2018, Republican state representative Steve Drazkowski publicly accused Omar of campaign finance violations,[18] claiming that she used campaign funds to pay a divorce lawyer, and that her acceptance of speaking fees from public colleges violated Minnesota House rules. Omar responded that the attorney's fees were not personal but campaign-related; she offered to return the speaking fees.[54][55] Drazkowski later accused Omar of improperly using campaign funds for personal travel to Estonia and locations in the U.S.[18][56][36]

Omar's campaign dismissed the accusations as politically motivated and accused Drazkowski of using public funds to harass a Muslim candidate.[36][34] In response to an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune arguing that Omar should be more transparent about her use of campaign funds, she said: "these people are part of systems that have historically been disturbingly motivated to silence, discredit and dehumanize influencers who threaten the establishment."[36]

In June 2019, Minnesota campaign finance officials ruled that Omar had to pay back $3,500 that she had spent on out-of-state travel and tax filing in violation of state law. She was also ordered to pay a $500 fine.[57]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

2018

Welcoming several of the new female Congressional Black Caucus members in January 2019

On June 5, 2018, Omar filed to run for the United States House of Representatives from Minnesota's 5th congressional district after six-term incumbent Keith Ellison announced he would not seek reelection.[58] On June 17, she was endorsed by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party after two rounds of voting.[59] Omar won the August 14 primary with 48.2% of the vote.[60] The 5th district is the most Democratic district in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, (it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+26) and the DFL has held it without interruption since 1963. She faced health care worker and conservative activist Jennifer Zielinski in the November 6 general election[61] and won with 78.0% of the vote, becoming the first Somali American elected to the U.S. Congress, the first woman of color to serve as a U.S. Representative from Minnesota,[7] and (alongside former Michigan state representative Rashida Tlaib) one of the first Muslim women elected to the Congress.[62][63][64]

Omar received the largest percentage of the vote of any female candidate for U.S. House in state history,[65] as well as the largest percentage of the vote for a non-incumbent candidate for U.S. House (excluding those running against only non-major-party candidates) in state history.[65] She was sworn in on a copy of the Quran owned by her grandfather.[66][67]

2020

Omar won the Democratic nomination in the August 11 Democratic primary, in which she faced four opponents. The strongest was mediation lawyer Antone Melton-Meaux, who raised $3.2 million in April-June 2020, compared to about $500,000 by Omar; much of Melton-Meaux's funding came from pro-Israel groups.[68][69] Melton-Meaux was also endorsed by Minnesota's largest newspaper, The Star Tribune.[70] This led some analysts to predict a close race,[71] but Omar received 57.4% of the vote to Melton-Meaux's 39.2%.[72][73] She will face Republican Lacy Johnson in the November 3 general election.[74]

Tenure

Following Omar's election, the ban on head coverings in the U.S. House was modified, and Omar became the first woman to wear a hijab on the House floor.[26] She is a member of the informal group known as "The Squad", whose members form a unified front to push for progressive changes such as the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all. The other members of "The Squad" are Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.[75]

Brian Stelter of CNN Business found that from January to July 2019 Omar had around twice as many mentions on Fox News as on CNN and MSNBC, and about six times the coverage of James Clyburn, a Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.[76] A CBS News and YouGov poll of almost 2,100 American adults conducted from July 17 to 19 found that Republican respondents were more aware of Omar than Democratic respondents. Omar has very unfavorable ratings among Republican respondents and favorable ratings among Democratic respondents. The same is true of the other three members of the Squad.[77]

Legislation

In July 2019, Omar introduced a resolution co-sponsored by Rashida Tlaib and Georgia Representative John Lewis stating that "all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution". The resolution "opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad", and "urges Congress, States, and civil rights leaders from all communities to endeavor to preserve the freedom of advocacy for all by opposing anti-boycott resolutions and legislation".[78] In the same month, Omar was one of 17 Congress members to vote against a House resolution condemning the BDS movement.[79]

Congressional committee assignments

Caucuses

Political positions

Omar speaking at a worker protest against Amazon, December 2018

Education

Omar supports broader access to student loan forgiveness programs, as well as free tuition for college students whose family income is below $125,000.[82] Omar supports Bernie Sanders's plan to eliminate all $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt, funded by an 0.5% tax on stock transactions and an 0.1% tax on bond transactions;[83] she introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.[84] In June 2019, Omar and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the No Shame at School Act, which would end the marking of--and punishment for--students with school meal debt.[85]

Health care

Omar supports Medicare for All as proposed in the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.[26][86]

Immigration

Omar opposes efforts to seal the U.S.-Mexico border, calling Donald Trump's border wall plan "racist and sinful."[87] In March 2019, Politico reported that Omar criticized Barack Obama's "caging of kids" along the Mexican border.[88][89] Omar accused Politico of distorting her comments and said that she had been "saying how [President] Trump is different from Obama, and why we should focus on policy not politics," adding, "One is human, the other is really not."[90]

In June 2019, Omar was one of four Democratic representatives to vote against the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act, a $4.5 billion border funding bill that required Customs and Border Protection to enact health standards for individuals in custody such as standards for "medical emergencies; nutrition, hygiene, and facilities; and personnel training." "Throwing more money at the very organizations committing human rights abuses--and the very Administration directing these human rights abuses--is not a solution. This is a humanitarian crisis ... inflicted by our own leadership," she said.[91][92]

Military policy

Omar has been critical of U.S. foreign policy, and has called for reduced funding for "perpetual war and military aggression,"[93] saying, "knowing my tax dollars pay for bombs killing children in Yemen makes my heart break," with "everyone in Washington saying we don't have enough money in the budget for universal health care, we don't have enough money in the budget to guarantee college education for everyone."[93] She has also said, "By principle, I'm anti-war because I survived a war. I'm also anti-intervention. I don't think it ever makes sense for any country to intervene in a war zone with the fallacy of saving lives when we know they are going to cause more deaths. I also don't believe in forced regime change. Change needs to come from within."[94] Omar has criticized the U.S. government's drone assassination program, citing the Obama administration's policy of "droning of countries around the world."[88][89] She has said, "we don't need nearly 800 military bases outside the United States to keep our country safe."[95]

In 2019, Omar signed a letter led by Representative Ro Khanna and Senator Rand Paul to President Trump asserting that it is "long past time to rein in the use of force that goes beyond congressional authorization" and that they hoped this would "serve as a model for ending hostilities in the future--in particular, as you and your administration seek a political solution to our involvement in Afghanistan."[96][97]

Human rights

Omar has criticized Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses and the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[98][99] In October 2018, she tweeted: "The Saudi government might have been strategic at covering up the daily atrocities carried out against minorities, women, activists and even the #YemenGenocide, but the murder of #JamalKhashoggi should be the last evil act they are allowed to commit."[99] She also called for a boycott of Saudi Arabia's regime, tweeting: "#BDSSaudi."[100] The Saudi Arabian government responded by having dozens of anonymous Twitter troll accounts it controlled post tweets critical of Omar.[98]

Omar condemned China's treatment of its ethnic Uyghur people.[101] In a Washington Post op-ed, Omar wrote, "Our criticisms of oppression and regional instability caused by Iran are not legitimate if we do not hold Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to the same standards. And we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to repression in Saudi Arabia--a country that is consistently ranked among the worst of the worst human rights offenders."[95] She also condemned the Assad regime in Syria.[102] Omar criticized Trump's decision to impose further sanctions on Iran, saying the sanctions devastated the "country's middle class and increased hostility toward the United States, with tensions between the two countries rising to dangerous levels."[103]

Omar condemned the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings, tweeting, "No person, of any faith, should be fearful in their house of worship."[104]

Omar opposed the October 2019 Turkish offensive into northeastern Syria, writing that "What has happened after Turkey's invasion of northeastern Syria is a disaster--tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee, hundreds of Islamic State fighters have escaped, and Turkish-backed rebels have been credibly accused of atrocities against the Kurds."[103]

In October 2019 Omar voted "present" on H.Res. 296, to recognize the Armenian Genocide,[105] causing a backlash.[106][107] She said in a statement that "accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight" and argued that such a step should include both the Atlantic slave trade and the Native American genocide.[108] In November, after her controversial vote, Omar publicly condemned the Armenian genocide at a rally for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.[109][110]

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Support for boycott efforts and other criticisms

While she was in the Minnesota legislature, Omar was critical of the Israeli government and opposed a law intended to restrict the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.[111] She compared the movement to people who "engage[d] in boycotts" of apartheid in South Africa.[100] During her House campaign, she said she did not support the BDS movement, describing it as counterproductive to peace.[112][113] After the election her position changed, as her campaign office told Muslim Girl that she supports the BDS movement despite "reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution."[114][115][112] Omar has voiced support for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[100][95] She criticized Israel's settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.[116]

In 2018, Omar came under criticism for statements she made about Israel before she was in the Minnesota legislature.[111][113] In a 2012 tweet, she wrote, "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel."[111][117] The comment, particularly the notion that Israel had "hypnotized the world," was criticized as drawing on anti-Semitic tropes.[111]The New York Times columnist Bari Weiss wrote that Omar's statement tied into a millennia-old "conspiracy theory of the Jew as the hypnotic conspirator."[118] When asked in an interview how she would respond to American Jews who found the remark offensive, Omar replied, "I don't know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War and I'm clearly speaking about the way the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war."[117] After reading Weiss's commentary, Omar apologized for not "disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used."[119]

In September 2019, Omar condemned Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to annex the eastern portion of the occupied West Bank known as the Jordan Valley.[120] Omar said Israelis should not vote for Netanyahu in the September 2019 Israeli legislative election.[121]

Remarks on AIPAC and American support for Israel

In an exchange with the journalist Glenn Greenwald in February 2019, Omar tweeted, "It's all about the Benjamins baby" in reference to American politicians' support for Israel and invoked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). A number of Democratic leaders--including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn--condemned the tweet, which was interpreted as implying that money was fueling American politicians' support of Israel.[122] The Democratic House leadership released a statement accusing Omar of "engaging in deeply offensive anti-Semitic tropes."[123] The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) also denounced her statements.[124] Omar issued an apology the next day, saying, "I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes," and adding, "I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry."[123]

On February 27, 2019, Omar spoke at a bookstore and said of her critics: "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country." The statements were quickly criticized as allegedly drawing on anti-Semitic tropes of dual loyalty. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said it was "deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens" and asked Omar to retract her statement.[125] House Appropriations Committee chairwoman Nita Lowey also called for an apology and criticized the statements in a March 3 tweet, which led to an online exchange between the two. In response, Omar reaffirmed her remarks, insisting that she "should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee."[126][127] Omar said she was simply criticizing Israel, drawing a distinction between criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu and being anti-Semitic.[128][129] Omar's spokesman, Jeremy Slevin, said Omar was speaking out about "the undue influence of lobbying groups for foreign interests."[130]

Reaction among Democratic presidential candidates was mixed. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders defended Omar.[131] Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio regarded her statements as disturbing.[132][133] According to The Guardian, election records archived by OpenSecrets "suggest a correlation between pro-Israel lobby campaign contributions and Democratic presidential candidates' position on the controversy."[134] Some members of the Black Caucus believed Omar was unfairly targeted because she is a black Muslim, noting that "the Democratic leadership did not draft a resolution condemning Donald Trump or other white male Republicans over their antisemitic remarks."[134] The second round of remarks prompted the Democratic leadership to introduce a resolution condemning antisemitism that did not specifically refer to Omar. Following objections from a number of congressional progressive Democrats, the resolution was amended to include Islamophobia, racism, and homophobia.[135] On March 7, the House passed the amended resolution. Omar called the resolution "historic on many fronts," and said, "We are tremendously proud to be part of a body that has put forth a condemnation of all forms of bigotry including anti-Semitism, racism, and white supremacy."[136] Some Minnesota Jewish and Muslim community leaders subsequently expressed continued concern over Omar's rhetoric and language and indicated that the issue remained divisive with Omar's district.[137]

On May 20, 2019, protesters gathered in Times Square in New York City to call for Omar's removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "In my lifetime, I cannot think of any other politician who presents a bigger threat to the alliance between the US and Israel and to America's Jews," "Ilhan Must Go" founder and rally organizer Joe Diamond told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the protest.[138] Across the street, a smaller group of counter-protesters organized by progressive Jewish organization IfNotNow supported Omar, with one saying, "I'm just sick and tired of seeing this one part of the Jewish community try to silence those who criticize Israel."[139]

Omar has since supported AIPAC, however, signing a letter backed by AIPAC calling for the continuation of the UN embargo against Iran,[140] with her office saying that she has opposed human rights abuse "for a long time."[141]

Ban from entering Israel

In August 2019, Omar and Representative Rashida Tlaib were banned from entering Israel, a reversal from the July 2019 statement by Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer that "any member of Congress" would be allowed in. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attributed the ban to Israeli law preventing the entry of people who call for a boycott of Israel (as Omar and Tlaib had done with their support for BDS). Netanyahu also cited Omar and Tlaib listing their destination as Palestine instead of Israel, claiming he thus viewed their visit as an attempt to "hurt Israel and increase its unrest". Netanyahu also said that Omar and Tlaib did not plan on visiting or meeting with any Israeli officials from the government or the opposition, and additionally accused Miftah, the sponsor of Omar's trip, of having members who support terrorism against Israel (in 2016, Israel approved a visit by five U.S. Representatives to Israel that Miftah co-sponsored, but that was before Israel enacted its anti-BDS law[142][143]). Less than two hours before the ban, President Trump tweeted that Israel allowing the visit would "show great weakness" when Omar and Tlaib "hate Israel & all Jewish people".[144][145][146][142] Omar said that Netanyahu had caved to Trump's demand and that "Trump's Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing". She responded to Netanyahu that she had intended to meet members of Israel's legislative Knesset and Israeli security officials. Both Democratic and Republican legislators criticized the ban and requested that Israel rescind it.[147][148] AIPAC released a statement saying that it disagreed with Israel's move and that Omar and Tlaib should have been allowed to "experience Israel firsthand", while the head of the American Jewish Committee put out a statement agreeing with AIPAC on the matter.[149] U.S. Representative Max Rose (who is Jewish) also criticized the move to ban Omar, adding that Omar and Tlaib did not speak for the Democratic Party.[150]

LGBT rights

In March 2019, Omar addressed a rally in support of a Minnesota bill that would ban gay conversion therapy in the state. She co-sponsored a similar bill when she was a member of the Minnesota House.[151] In May 2019, Omar introduced legislation that would sanction Brunei over a recently introduced law that would make homosexual sex and adultery punishable by death.[152] In June 2019, she participated in Twin Cities Pride in Minnesota.[153] In August 2019, Omar wrote on Twitter in support of the Palestinian LGBT rights group Al Qaws after the Palestinian Authority banned Al Qaws's activities in the West Bank.[154]

Minimum wage

Omar supports a $15 hourly minimum wage.[26][155]

Venezuela crisis

In January 2019, amid the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis, Omar joined Democrats Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard in denouncing the Trump administration's decision to recognize Juan Guaidó, the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, as Venezuela's interim president.[156] She described Trump's action as a "U.S. backed coup" to "install a far right opposition" and said that the U.S. should not "hand pick" foreign leaders[157] and should support "Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican's efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue."[156] In response to criticisms of her comments, Omar wrote that "No one is defending Maduro" and that opposing US intervention is not the equivalent of supporting the existing leadership of a country.[158]

In February 2019, Omar questioned whether Elliott Abrams, whom Trump appointed as Special Representative for Venezuela in January 2019, was the correct choice given his past support of right-wing authoritarian regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, his initial doubts about the number of reported deaths in the El Mozote massacre in 1982, and his two 1991 misdemeanor convictions for withholding information from Congress about the Iran-Contra affair, for which he was later pardoned by George H. W. Bush.[159][160]

In May 2019, Omar said in an interview on Democracy Now! that U.S. foreign policy and economic sanctions are aimed at regime change and have contributed to the "devastation in Venezuela."[161]

Minneapolis Police Department

In June 2020, the "Defund the police" slogan gained widespread popularity following the death of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter and other activists used the phrase to call for police budget reductions and a plan to delegate certain police responsibilities to other organizations. Reacting to the death of Floyd, the majority of the Minneapolis City Council voted to dismantle the city's police department. In a statement, the Minneapolis mayor said they planned to work to address "systemic racism in police culture."[162][163] Following the death of Floyd, Omar advocated for the dismantlement of the Minneapolis Police Department, saying that the Department had "proven themselves beyond reform."[164] Omar hoped to see a new police department that would be modeled after the Camden County Police Department in New Jersey.

Threats, conspiracy theories, and harassment

DFL caucus attack

On February 4, 2014, Omar was beaten by multiple attendees during a DFL caucus for Minnesota's House of Representatives District 60B.[165] She was organizing the event and was a policy aide to Minneapolis City Councilman Andrew Johnson at the time. She sustained a concussion and was sent to the hospital.[166]

Assassination plots

In February 2019, the FBI arrested United States Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Hasson, who was allegedly plotting to assassinate various journalists and political figures in the United States, including Omar. According to prosecutors, Hasson is a self-described "long time White Nationalist" and former skinhead who wanted to use violence to "establish a white homeland." Prosecutors also alleged that Hasson was in contact with an American neo-Nazi leader, stockpiled weapons, and compiled a hit list.[167]

False connection to 9/11

On March 1, 2019, the West Virginia Republican Party held "WV GOP Day," an event to celebrate the Republican Party, at the West Virginia Capitol. An exhibitor, not associated with the Republican Party, displayed a poster at the event falsely connecting Omar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, along with Islamophobic flyers. State delegate Mike Pushkin, in attendance at the event, said that no Republican delegates condemned the poster. The West Virginia Republican Party condemned the poster the following day. Omar pointed to the poster as an example of why she is targeted with violence, also citing white nationalist domestic terrorist Christopher Hasson placing her on his hit list and "Assassinate Ilhan Omar" being written in a Minnesota gas station.[168][169][170][171][172][168]

Death threats

On or before February 22, 2019, "Assassinate Ilhan Omar" was graffitied in a Rogers, Minnesota Holiday gas station restroom, prompting an FBI investigation.[173]

On April 7, 2019, Patrick Carlineo Jr., was arrested for threatening to assault and murder Omar in a phone call to her office. He reportedly told investigators that he supported Trump and did not want Muslims in the government.[174][175] In May 2019, Carlineo was released from custody and placed on house arrest.[176] Carlineo pleaded guilty to the offense on November 19.[177] Omar asked the court to be lenient with him.[178]

In April 2019, Omar said that she had received more death threats after Trump made comments about her and 9/11, "many directly referencing or replying to the president's video".[179] In August 2019, Omar published an anonymous threat she had received of being shot at the Minnesota State Fair, saying that such threats were why she now had security protection.[180] In September 2019 she asserted Trump was putting her life in danger by retweeting a tweet falsely claiming she had "partied on the anniversary of 9/11."[181]

Two Republican candidates for congressional office have called for her to be executed.[182] In November 2019, Danielle Stella, Omar's Republican opponent for Congress, was banned from Twitter for suggesting that Omar be hanged for treason if found guilty of passing information to Iran.[177] In December 2019, George Buck, another Republican running for Congress, also suggested that Omar be hanged for treason. In response, Buck was removed from the National Republican Congressional Committee's Young Guns program.[183]

9/11 comments and World Trade Center cover

On April 11, 2019, the front page of the New York Post carried an image of the World Trade Center burning following the September 11 terrorist attacks and a quotation from a speech Omar gave the previous month. The headline read, "REP. ILHAN OMAR: 9/11 WAS 'SOME PEOPLE DID SOMETHING'", and a caption underneath added, "Here's your something ... 2,977 people dead by terrorism."[184] The Post was quoting a speech Omar had given at a recent Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) meeting. In the speech Omar said, "CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us [Muslims in the U.S.] were starting to lose access to our civil liberties." (CAIR was founded in 1994, but many new members joined after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.)[185][186]

On April 12, President Trump retweeted a video that edited Omar's remarks to remove context, showing her saying, "Some people did something."[187][188][189][190] Some Democratic representatives condemned Trump's retweet, predicting that it would incite violence and hatred. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Trump to "take down his disrespectful and dangerous video" and asked the U.S. Capitol Police to increase its protection of Omar.[191][192]

Speaking at an April 30 protest by black women calling for formal censure of Trump,[193] Omar blamed Trump and his allies for inciting Americans against both Jews and Muslims.[194]

"Go back to their countries" Trump tweet

On July 14, 2019, Trump tweeted that The Squad--a group that consists of Omar and three other congresswomen of color who were born in the United States--should "go back" to the "places from which they came".[12][195][13] In response, Omar said Trump was "stoking white nationalism" because he was "angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."[195] Two days later, the House of Representatives voted 240-187 to condemn Trump's "racist comments".[196] On July 17, it was reported that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lists the phrase "Go back to where you came from" as an example of "harassment based on national origin".[197]

At a July 17 campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump made additional comments about The Squad: "They never have anything good to say. That's why I say, 'Hey if you don't like it, let 'em leave, let 'em leave'", and "I think in some cases they hate our country".[198] He made a series of false and misleading claims about Omar, including allegations that she had praised al-Qaeda and "smeared" American soldiers who had fought in Battle of Mogadishu by bringing up the numerous Somali civilian casualties.[199][200][201] The crowd reacted by chanting, "Send her back, Send her back."[202][203] Trump later called the crowd "incredible people, incredible patriots" and accused Omar of racism and antisemitism.[204] On July 19, he claimed without evidence that Omar and the rest of The Squad had used the term "evil Jews".[205]

Foreign media has widely covered Trump's remarks about Omar and The Squad. The social media hashtag #IStandWithIlhanOmar was soon trending in the United States and other countries.[206] Many foreign politicians condemned Trump's comments. On July 19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "I reject [Trump's comments] and stand in solidarity with the congresswomen he targeted."[206]

Patriotism questioned

On March 9, 2019, speaking on her Fox News show Justice with Judge Jeanine, Jeanine Pirro was said to have questioned Omar's patriotism by noting Omar's hijab, saying, "Think about it: Omar wears a hijab. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?" Following her comments Fox issued a statement that they did "not reflect [the views] of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly", and suspended her show for a week. Several advertisers "distanced" themselves from the show. Hufsa Kamal, a producer of Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier, tweeted: "@JudgeJeanine can you stop spreading this false narrative that somehow Muslims hate America or women who wear a hijab aren't American enough? You have Muslims working at the same network you do, including myself."[207][208][209] After a two-week absence Pirro's show returned on March 29, without comment by either Fox or Pirro.[210]

Target of online hate speech

According to a study by the Social Science Research Council of more than 113,000 tweets about Muslim candidates in the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Omar "was the prime target. Roughly half of the 90,000 tweets mentioning her included hate speech or Islamophobic or anti-immigrant language."[211] According to the study, "Key themes included Muslims as subhumans or 'Trojan horses' seeking to impose Shariah law on America.... A large proportion of these trolls were likely bots or automated accounts run by people, organizations or state actors seeking to spread political propaganda and hate speech. That's based on telltale iconography, naming patterns, webs of linkages and the breadth of the postelection scrubbing."[211]

Electoral history

Minnesota's 5th congressional district Democratic primary, 2018[212]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Ilhan Omar 65,238 48.2
Democratic (DFL) Margaret Anderson Kelliher 41,156 30.4
Democratic (DFL) Patricia Torres Ray 17,629 13.0
Democratic (DFL) Jamal Abdulahi 4,984 3.7
Democratic (DFL) Bobby Joe Champion 3,831 2.8
Democratic (DFL) Frank Drake 2,480 1.8
Total votes 135,318 100.0
Minnesota's 5th congressional district, 2018[213]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic (DFL) Ilhan Omar 267,703 77.97
Republican Jennifer Zielinski 74,440 21.68
n/a Write-ins 1,215 0.35
Total votes 343,358 100.0
Democratic (DFL) hold

Awards and honors

Omar received the 2015 Community Leadership Award from Mshale, an African immigrant media outlet based in Minneapolis. The prize is awarded annually on a readership basis.[214]

In 2017, Time magazine named Omar among its "Firsts: Women who are changing the world," a special report on 46 women who broke barriers in their respective disciplines, and featured her on the cover of its September 18 issue.[215] Her family was named one of the "five families who are changing the world as we know it" by Vogue in their February 2018 issue featuring photographs by Annie Leibovitz.[216]

Media appearances

In 2018, Omar was featured in the music video for Maroon 5's "Girls Like You" featuring Cardi B.[217]

The 2018 documentary film Time for Ilhan (directed by Norah Shapiro, produced by Jennifer Steinman Sternin and Chris Newberry) chronicles Omar's political campaign.[218] It was selected to show at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival.[219][220]

Following a July 2019 tweet by Trump that The Squad--a group that consists of Omar and three other congresswomen of color who were born in the United States--should "go back" to the "places from which they came",[12] Omar and the other members of the Squad held a press conference that was taped by CNN and posted to social media. [221]

On October 19, 2020, Omar joined Ocasio-Cortez, Disguised Toast, Jacksepticeye, and Pokimane in a Twitch stream playing the popular game Among Us, encouraging streamers to vote in the 2020 election. This collaboration garnered almost half a million views.[222]

Personal life

In 2002, Omar became engaged to Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi (né Aden). The couple applied for a marriage license, but the application was not finalized. Omar has said that they had a faith-based marriage. The couple had two children together. Omar has said that they divorced within their faith tradition in 2008.[2] The next year, Omar married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a British citizen.[2] In 2011, she and Elmi had a faith-based divorce.[223] That year, Omar reconciled with Hirsi, with whom she had a third child in 2012.[2] In 2017, Elmi and Omar were legally divorced,[55] and in 2018, Omar and Hirsi were legally married.[36] They and their three children have lived in Minneapolis since 1997.[39] Omar's daughter Isra Hirsi is one of the three principal organizers of the school strike for climate in the US.[224]

On October 7, 2019, Omar filed for divorce from Hirsi, citing an "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage.[225] The divorce was finalized on November 5, 2019.[4][5] She announced her marriage to political consultant Tim Mynett in March 2020.[226] On June 15, 2020, Omar announced the death of her father from COVID-19.[227]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Omar and Elmi were married in 2009. Omar has stated that the couple divorced within their faith tradition in 2011. They remained legally married until 2017.[2]
  2. ^ Omar has stated that she and Hirsi married within their faith tradition in 2002. The couple had two children. Omar has stated that she and Hirsi divorced within their faith tradition in 2008. They reconciled and had a third child in 2012.[3] Omar and Hirsi were legally married in 2018.[2] Their divorce was finalized on November 5, 2019.[4][5]

References

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