History was made last night in Minnesota as Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American Muslim female legislator after claiming a strong victory in the state’s House race.
According to the Star-Tribune, Ms. Omar, 34, “is credited with being a talented organizer and leader of a multiracial coalition that includes Minneapolis progressives.” Along with her political work, Ms. Omar is also Director of Policy at Women Organizing Women Network, a group whose goal is to empower women, focusing on first and second generation immigrants, to become involved citizens and community leaders.
Ms. Omar recognizes the historic significance of her candidacy along with the hurdles she overcame during the election process. “Oftentimes, you are told to be everything but bold, but I think that was important for me in running as a young person and running as someone who is Muslim, a refugee, an immigrant,” Ms. Omar tells the Huffington Post. “To believe in the possibility that all of my identities and otherness would fade into the background, and that my voice as a strong progressive would emerge if I was bold and believed in that — that made a huge difference for me and my candidacy.”
When Ms. Omar was young, her and her family fled the Somali civil war, eventually living at a Kenyan refugee camp for a number of years. At the age of twelve, the family immigrated to America, barely knowing English. Reflecting on this time, Ms. Omar says she was disappointed at the racial and economic inequality in America along with religious intolerance – hallmark issues that she is fighting for now.
“We’re a minority in this country,” says supporter Hodan Adan. “I am glad we see a role model for many women and students. I want a woman and someone from our community to win.”