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Newly Elected Congresswoman llhan Omar Vows to Fight Headwear Ban

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 06: Minnesota Democratic Congressional Candidate Ilhan Omar speaks at an election night results party on November 6, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar won the race for Minnesota's 5th congressional district seat against Republican candidate Jennifer Zielinski to become one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaks at an election night results party on November 6, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Getty

Earlier this month, Ilhan Omar became the the first hijab-wearing woman and African refugee elected into US Congress – and now she’s readying for her next battle. The Somali-born politician, and Democratic representative from Minnesota, has announced she is working on a proposal to relax legislation stipulating that headwear may not be worn in Congress. Under a 181-year-old law, hats cannot be worn in the the House chamber of the Capitol, which may restrict the politician’s ability to wear her headscarf. However, the Democrats are proposing the rules be changed to allow religious headwear on the floor.

Representative-elect Omar has co-authored the proposal together with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Incoming Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, according to rollcall.com. “No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice — one protected by the first amendment,” Omar wrote on Twitter and Instagram on Sunday. “And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.” If the proposal is passed, Omar will become the first federal legislator to wear the hijab when she is sworn in next year. Her proposal has won the support of many on social media, including White House adviser Ivanka Trump, who tweeted: “Important rule change for Congress to make.”

While taking to the stage during a victory party in Minneapolis earlier this month, Omar began her acceptance speech with “As-Salaam-Alaikum,” an Islamic phrase that translates to “Peace be upon you”, which Muslims (and non-Muslims) worldwide use to greet each other. She then continued her emotionally-charged victory speech by offering her gratitude to God. “Alhamdulillah,” (All praise be to Allah) she repeated three times.

“I stand here before you tonight as your congresswoman-elect with many firsts behind my name,” she said triumphantly. “The first woman of color to represent our state in Congress. The first woman to wear a hijab. The first refugee ever elected to Congress. And one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.”

“We will fight to abolish ICE, keep families together, protect refugees, protect women’s right to choose, and fight against climate change,” she declared to rapturous applause. “And as we fight for our immigrant families, our neighbors, our children, our planet, our communities, I promise to always have your back.”

Omar grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp after fleeing her nation due to civil unrest. She spent four years in a camp in Mombasa before settling in Minnesota with her family in 1995, aged 12, where she learned English by watching American TV. The mother of three would go on to obtain her bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from North Dakota State University in 2011. She first started gaining traction two years ago, when she became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature in Minnesota.

The history-making US Representative-elect will assume office in January, joining Rashida Tlaib — the daughter of Palestinian immigrants – as one of the first two Muslim women elected to the United States House of Representatives.

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