First Somali-American legislator says a cab driver threatened to remove her hijab
Making history doesn’t protect one from hatred, sexism, or bigotry. Ilhan Omar made history this year when she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives as the first Somali-American legislator. Unfortunately, winning 80 percent of your state’s vote is not a shield from xenophobia. On Wednesday, Omar recounted an experience she described as “the most hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats” at the hands of a D.C. cab driver.
On Omar’s way to her hotel from the White House, she jumped in a cab. During her ride, she was subjected to being called “ISIS,” according to her Facebook post. The cab driver also threatened to remove her hijab. She escaped from the cab before any physical harm was done, but the mental scars are lasting.
“I am still shaken by this incident and can’t wrap my head around how bold being are becoming in displaying their hate towards Muslims. I pray for his humanity and for all those who harbor hate in their hearts,” she wrote.
In response to a Facebook commenter who encouraged her to make an official complaint, Omar responded, “I plan to report once I am back home safe in Minneapolis, he knows the hotel I am staying at and don’t feel safe enough to say anything at the moment.”
This behavior toward Muslims, women, and people of color has been increasing across the country since Trump won the presidential election, despite him telling his supporters to “stop it” during his 60 Minutes interview. Perhaps he should tweet the message so it’s loud and clear that he denounces violence against marginalized groups. And now that it has happened to an elected official, he should make it plain where he stands.
But we know that won’t happen.
Omar is brave for speaking up, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from a woman who campaigned on affordable education, environmental sustainability, equal pay, and police and criminal justice reform. The awesome legislator is also a former refugee who fled from the Somali civil war as a child. She spent four years in a Kenya refugee camp before moving to the U.S. “All of these identities that I carry are going to be an obstacle,” Omar told The Guardian in February.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time she’s felt threatened. In 2014, she was physically attacked by five people at a DFL Party caucus meeting but managed to escape without any serious injuries. In addition to her seat in the Minnesota House, she is currently the director of policy and initiatives at the Women Organizing Women Network. She, her husband, and three children reside in Minnesota.
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