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The First Hijab-Wearing Woman In US Congress Faces Islamophobic Smears

Portrait of Ilhan Omar.

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, who is the first hijab-wearing woman to serve in the US House of Representatives, has become the subject of a targeted attack. Earlier this month, a poster of the Somali-American politician appeared at an event meant to celebrate the Republican Party in the West Virginia Capitol, insinuating that the congresswoman is somehow connected with the events of 9/11, simply because she is Muslim. At the top of the poster is an image of the Twin Towers engulfed in flames after the terrorist attack, with the caption “‘Never forget’, you said”. Beneath that is a picture of Omar, with the caption “I am proof you have forgotten.”

In response, Omar tweeted: “No wonder why I am on the ‘Hitlist’ of a domestic terrorist and ‘Assassinate Ilhan Omar’ is written on my local gas stations.”

Naturally, people took to social media to express their outrage over the blatant, islamophobic attack on Omar. Following the wave of backlash flooding Twitter, the West Virgina GOP issued a statement saying that someone had hung up the poster without their knowledge (although the poster was in a display case in the capitol), and that the party do not support it. “The West Virginia Republican Party does not approve, condone, or support hate speech,” the statement said. “One of the exhibitors at our West Virginia Republican Party Day at the Capitol displayed a sign that we did not approve, were not aware of before the day started, and we do not support.” The statement did not offer an apology for the hateful act or indicate that anyone would be held accountable for it.

Many democrats jumped to the congresswoman’s defense to condemn the hate speech. Mike Pushkin, a Democratic member of the House of Delegates, told The Washington Post “It was Islamophobic, it was racist, and it was wrong.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted “Racism becomes acceptable on a partisan basis, and official GOP groups begin to use it to demonize communities, it puts real people in danger. @IlhanMN, I am sorry these threats are being targeted on you.”

Rep. Ayana Pressley also shared her own message of support. “The inhumane racism and death threats thrown at my friend Rep. @Ilhan are acts of terrorism. Period,” she wrote. “We will overcome these threats to our humanity just like we’ve done time & time again. We are resilient. Ilhan – we got your back.”

The ignorant targeted attack on Omar led to a subsequent string of events that resulted in a resignation and an injury. The Sergeant at Arms, Anne Lieberman resigned after Del. Michael Angelucci accused her of stating that “All Muslims are terrorists”. Meanwhile, a doorkeeper was reportedly injured by a Delegate during a heated dispute that took place outside the House of Delegates.

Omar, one of the first two Muslim congresswoman ever elected, has been the target of Islamophobic smears since she took office this year.

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