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Ilhan Omar’s Minnesota Win is Another Victory for Muslim Women

Photographed by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for Vogue Arabia April 2019

Making history as one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress in 2018, Ilhan Omar has now won her congressional primary, thus informally securing a hold on Minnesota’s historically Democratic-run 5th district. Up against a first-time but well-funded candidate, Antone Melton-Meaux, the Somali-American congresswoman’s deep embrace of left-wing politics earned her endorsements from a plethora of progressive allies including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Focusing on social justice and bringing an end to systemic racism, Omar’s campaign was one of the final electoral priorities for progressives in this year’s primary season. With many having written the party’s left-wing off on account of their social media-esque activism and lack of mass electoral appeal, Omar’s victory shines a new light on the prior losses of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom lost the party’s presidential nomination to former Vice President Joe Biden. The latest in a strong string of re-elections, Omar’s win, alongside the victories of colleagues Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, sends an unmistakable message to Washington about the staying power of the party’s newest voices.

In a statement released shortly after her win, Omar talked about the complexities of her campaign; the opposition to her reelection, and the use of fear and division to “turn Minnesotan against Minnesotan.”. “This election isn’t about me,” she said. “It’s about an agenda rooted in people’s everyday struggles—and the corporations and rightwing donors who are threatened by it. It’s about standing up to a President who promised to ban an entire group of people from this country based solely on their Muslim identity. It’s about standing up for the basic human rights around the world—and fighting a military-industrial complex that opposes the recognition of people’s humanity and dignity.”

Touching on issues of sexual harassment, employment, and the maintenance of an unfair status quo that upholds myriad systems of oppression, Omar also contextualized the importance of the upcoming presidential election, in which Trump will rival against Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Ending with an acknowledgment of the Minnesotan people and their trust in her, she said, “It has been the honor of my life to represent you in Congress and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of the 5th District in the years to come.” “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing to send me back to Congress! As I like to say, here in Minnesota, we don’t just welcome refugees, we send them to Congress.”

Confirming that Minnesota’s majority does not stand alone in their endorsement of Omar, fellow Muslim congresswoman Rashida Tlaib took to Twitter shortly after the win with a message of support and encouragement. “Our squad is big!” she wrote, making reference to the informal name bestowed upon the four women of color elected to Congress in 2018. Comprising Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the Squad represents the demographic diversity of a younger political generation, advocating for progressive legislation surrounding issues of foreign policy and climate change, sometimes at the disagreement of their party’s leadership.

Read Next: Ilhan Omar: “To Me, the Hijab Means Power, Liberation, Beauty, and Resistance”

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