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Ilhan Omar Swears In As First Female Muslim and Somali-American Legislator

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Jan. 5 2017, Published 10:38 a.m. ET

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This week, Ilhan Omar made American history. She became the first female, Muslim, and Somali-American to be sworn into the Minnesota House of Representatives as a legislator.

Ilhan Omar ceremony simultaneously marked another milestone. She’s only the second person to hold the Quran during her swearing-in ceremony, following Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison – the first Muslim U.S. congressman and contender for DNC chairmanship.

Despite beginning 2017 with Trump as President, our 115th Congress sheds a bit more hope on our country’s representation. Although like many of our political institutions, Congress has historically been dominated by white males, this year a record high of 21 women have joined the group.

Additionally, more women of color are now serving the U.S. Senate, with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to join Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

In a bright spot: Ilhan Omar, who was sworn in yesterday as the nation’s first Somali-American, Muslim woman legislator. ✊ pic.twitter.com/qvXZtYCu1Q — Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) January 4, 2017

Ilhan’s journey to politics has been far from easy. Having left a war-torn Somalia as a child, Ilhan and her family quickly had to move and live in a Kenyan refugee camp for four years before having the opportunity to migrate to the U.S. Her family continued to move, first to Virginia, and then to Minnesota where she finally began to carve out a special place in her community.

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“I believe women and minorities often wait for permission to be invited to something,” said Ilhan. “We need to stop doing that.”

By 30 she managed a city council race and began working at city hall soon after. Ilhan cites her children and community as her motivation to help make our country better. “My election win offers a counter-narrative to the bigotry in the world. It’s our time to fight for the America we know we can have.”

Despite watching Hillary Clinton’s loss of Presidency, women and girls everywhere can still celebrate our wins. Watching Ilhan be sworn in will reach even more girls, sending the message that they too can join government whether or not they have been told they belong.

Today, we celebrated. Tomorrow, we continue to fight for social, economic, and racial justice for all Minnesotans. Forward together. #mnleg

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 4, 2017

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