Nation's First Somali American Woman Lawmaker Harassed in D.C.

By Sheryl Estrada

Just weeks after her win in a Minnesota House race, Ilhan Omar,the nation’s first Somali American Muslim woman legislator,said she endured the most “hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist” experience of her life.

Omar was visiting Washington, D.C., this week to attend the State Innovation Exchange conference held Monday and Tuesday. It was the first mass meeting of hundreds of Democratic lawmakers since President-elect Donald Trump’s win.

On Tuesday, after a strategic planning session at the White House, Omar took a cab ride to her hotel.

She wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the cab driver allegedly harassed her and threatened to remove her hijab:

Omar has received hundreds of comments of support in response to her posting. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the lawmaker said on Wednesday she planned on filing a report when she returned to Minneapolis.

Omar’s Journey

Ilhan Omar with her family. (Facebook)

In a primary contest, Omar, 34, a member of the DemocraticFarmerLabor (DFL) Party, defeated DFL Party legislator Phyllis Kahn, who was seeking her 22nd term in the Minnesota House.Omar’s opponent in the race, Republican candidate Abdimalik Askar, who is also Somali American, questioned the truthfulness of her marital history. ButAskar wound upsuspending his campaign for family reasons. On Election Day,Omar received 80 percent of the vote andwas elected the state representative in District 60B in southeast Minneapolis.

Omar and her family fled the Somali civil war in 1991, which led to four years of living in a Kenyan refugee camp. Her family emigrated to the United States in 1995.In her adult life, Omar has been a Minneapolis organizer well versed in business administration and politics. For more than a year, the mother of three has served as director of policy and initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. The association advocates for women from East Africa to take on civic and political leadership roles.

Related Story: Post-Election Hate Crimes Roughly Seven Times Higher than Average

According to the latest report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in just the 10 days following the presidential election, November 8 and 18, there were 49 hate incidents against Muslims. The FBI projected that in 2015, 38 anti-religious crimes, targeting all faiths, occurred every 10 days.

The SPLC also estimated from media reports and submissions to its own #ReportHate page that post-election, there were 40 hate incidents against women. Most of the incidents have occurred in public spaces.

Related Story: Georgetown Report: Trump’s Rhetoric Resulted in ‘Almost Daily’ Attacks on Muslims

In aDec. 7, 2015, statement, during his presidential campaign, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

The Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project, released a special report in May,“When Islamophobia Turns Violent: The 2016 Presidential Elections,”which found that in the days immediately following Trump’s announcement, there were at least19 documented violent acts across the country carried out against Muslims and perceived Muslims. For the month of December, there were 53 total attacks, of which 17 targeted mosques and Islamic schools and five targeted Muslim homes.

Researchers also uncovered that from March 2015 to March 2016 (the 2016 presidential election season), there were approximately 180 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence: 12 murders, 34 physical assaults, 49 verbal assaults or threats against persons and institutions and 56 acts of vandalism.

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