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Ilhan Omar, from Mogadishu to Minnesota

By Nicholas Norbrook
Posted on Thursday, 13 June 2019 12:37

Ilhan Omar speaks about Trump administration policies towards Muslim immigrants and her own immigrant background at a news conference by members of the U.S. Congress "to announce legislation to repeal President Trump's existing executive order blocking travel from majority Muslim countries" REUTERS/Jim Bourg - RC123778E010

Born in Somalia in 1982, sworn in as a US congresswoman in 2019, Ihan Omar is only just getting started.

South African author and journalist Azad Essa has written a deeply-reported and sensitive profile of Somali-American politician Ilhan Omar.

  • “[…] Omar is more than just a congresswoman with fight. She is a refugee from a country that is now part of the president’s Muslim ban; she is black, visibly Muslim; a walking antithesis to Trump’s purview of America.

On the ‘provocateur progressives in Congress’ – herself, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, as a sign of genuine change:

  • “I think it can change from within. I was raised to believe that this was the one thing that was unique about this country: that people have the opportunity to fight and create the changes they want to see.”

The rise of Trump and the ‘anti-other’ media, has created a counter-force, and “given birth to people who want to put people in the centre of politics.”

  • “Even going back to the reconstruction era after the Civil War, you will see that any time new voices were included, there was extreme pushback.”

It is a complex picture; from how Muslims and Jews feel about the no-holds-barred approach Omar takes to the Israel-supporting lobby group AIPAC or Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, to the difficulties that progressives in her own party have reacted to pull towards the left.

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