Ilhan Omar: A New Woman in Congress


November 6th proved to be a historic day for representation in the United States Congress. Some of the milestones included Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) becoming the first Muslim women to be elected to the House of Representatives. With her win on Tuesday night, Omar will also become the first Somali-American member of Congress.


Born on October 4th, 1981 Omar lived with her father, grandfather, and seven older siblings in Mogadishu, Somalia. After the start of the civil war, the family fled to Kenya where they lived on a refugee camp for four years. In 1995 they immigrated to the United States, originally living in Arlington, VA but soon moving to Minneapolis in 1997.


Omar quickly learned the english language and served as an interpreter for her grandfather at caucus meetings, sparking an early interest in domestic politics and the democratic process. While studying at Edison High School, she focused on organizing and building coalitions. She became a community educator and a progressive activist in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party while working at the University of Minnesota.


With degrees in political science and international studies, Omar graduated from North Dakota State University in 2011. Before taking office as a state representative, Omar was a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, one of the nation’s top-ranked public policy and planning institutions. She also served as campaign advisor and senior Policy Aide for Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson from 2013 to 2015. Omar was attacked by a group of people and suffered injuries during a particularly violent 2014 precinct caucus.

Omar’s first political office was in the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016 which made her the first Somali-American legislator in the United States. While in office, Omar has worked to advance critical issues like support for working families, educational access, environmental protection, and racial equity. As a self-proclaimed “proud democratic socialist,” Omar supports a $15 hourly minimum wage as well as free tuition for college students whose family income falls below $125,000 and greater accessibility to student loan forgiveness programs. The actions of the Israeli government have also been criticized by Omar, saying that the government has hypnotized the world into overlooking “evil doings” that impede civilian life.


Ilhan Omar has undoubtedly faced hardships in her life and will continue to fight an uphill battle on the federal stage. With the hate and bigotry that exists so prominently in our world, Omar wants nothing more but to make "sure we are moving the country in a direction that is more hopeful, inclusive and prosperous.” Her election will hopefully spark a positive shift in policy regarding female and Muslim rights in the United States.