MOD Muse

Ilhan Omar, Stereotype Smasher

Five reasons to admire the inspirational leader

Words Isobel Atkinson • Artwork Nour Algharabally

At a rally to express solidarity with immigrants and refugees in Washington DC. Image by Getty.

Amongst a political era of strife, confusion and accusatory conversation, there is in parallel a stronghold choir of voices standing up for those in need, cue Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

Ilhan’s mission for change began with the frank sense of cultural disparagement met upon arrival to the U.S. Like most immigrants today she underwent both heavy vetting and the strenuous process of becoming a citizen. This came after four years of Omar and her family taking shelter in a Kenyan refugee camp post war breaking out in her native Somalia. You’d think after enduring years of upheaval, a weight would be lifted from the shoulders of twelve year old Omar at the prospect of descending from the sky unto a heavily advertised American Dream, yet the Congresswoman has let it be known this was not the case, it was all pretty dreggy. Her personal motive was from then on a climb through challenge and change, with achievements to note include her seizing the Democratic primary vote, successfully defeating incumbent Phyllis Kahn, who had been a state representative for the last forty-four years.

Not only was she the first American-Muslim to become a legislator, as of November 2018, she was the first Somali American elected to the U.S. Congress. Here’s why we’re highlighting her as a Modist Muse to admire…


We are not there to be silent. We are not there to be invisible.

Standing alongside groundbreaking director Ava DuVernay at the 2019 Town & Country Philanthropy Summit in New York. Image by Getty.

She shifts narrative
Ilhan’s arrival in the U.S. meant on a personal level she was struck by the primal need to defend and fight against the apparent social constructs defining her to the category of ‘Other’, and for her right to feel equal whilst build bridges amongst American citizens.

She speaks up
The symptoms of backlash have only stirred more passion within Omar, not merely on behalf of others, but for herself. Recently she called out Donald Trump for inciting violence against her. The President targeted the Representative for remarks she made during a speech on civil rights of Muslims in America, by posting a graphic two-slide video featuring her speech against the burning World Trade Centre towers and other images from September 11, 2001, that he tweeted to millions of his followers. Omar herself called the tweet a tactical ploy leading up to 2020 elections, in agreement were those such as Bernie Sanders who stood by her as she took public action against the exploitative message.

She listens
Ilhan believes that she and her fellow minority members of Congress are the proxy to people who feel cannot be heard or represent themselves; she highlights that in order for her to be heard and to be taken seriously by those who oppose her, saying there must be level conversation where listening to one another ensures a decency and trust. “The dehumanisation and the silencing of a particular pain and suffering of people should not be OK.” She’s stated.


She fights for equality
Her brave and truthful stances test her to speak frankly when necessity strikes, no matter the personal backlash. An example being when she denounced Stephen Miller as a white supremacist nationalist after a notorious slew of offensive policy positions and disagreeable beliefs.

She has changed history
Ilhan introduced a historic first when she, alongside two other Muslim members of Congress – representatives Rashida Tlaib and André Carson – hosted an Iftar at the US Capitol to break fast during Ramadan. The gathering was largely a celebration of spirituality and interfaith dialogue, and they shared some of the challenges faced on the basis of their identity as part of an institution still struggling with diversity…

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