Ilhan Abdullahi Omar is the first female Muslim and Somali-American legislator. Currently, she is serving as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district based in Minneapolis and Edina. In this interview with Rolling Stone, the outspoken rep gets, well, even more candid.
Here are some snippets:
ON WHAT it was like being a Muslim woman in America after 9/11:
You were afraid as an American and you were mourning, [but] you were seen now as a suspect. I remember there was an enormous fear that the community felt. It didn’t matter if you were a new citizen or if you’d been here all your life, there was a feeling like your existence here could be temporary.
ON HOW you were impacted by the 2017 Muslim Ban
I had just gotten sworn in [to the Minnesota Legislature] two weeks before. There was lots of chaos, people being stopped at the airports. I had a flight scheduled a week after to speak at a human-rights conference in Turkey. I didn’t know whether I could go. My father said, “I looked at the lineup at this human-rights conference — they’re risking everything. You are not gonna sit home.” I ended up going.
As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, how has your experience as a refugee impacted your view of, for instance, Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria?
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.
In a tweeted apology, you wrote you were grateful to ‘Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating [you] on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.’ What do you think you still have to learn about the Jewish faith and culture?
I know what intolerance looks like and one thing that has been painful about this whole process is knowing that I used language that caused hurt to others. My hope is that as much as I hold others accountable and help them learn, that people will also hold me accountable. I work every day to make sure we are living in a more tolerant world. And I hope people understand how deeply I care about creating that world. That’s why one of the first things I did as a member-elect was to speak about the rise of anti-Semitism — and one of the first bills I cosponsored as a new member was legislation to elevate the position of a Special Envoy to combat anti-Semitism.