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Ilhan Abdullahi Omar[1] (born October 4, 1981)[2] is a Somali American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district. The district is based in Minneapolis and also includes Edina, Richfield, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, and Fridley.

Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 5th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded byKeith Ellison
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 60B district
In office
January 2, 2017 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byPhyllis Kahn
Succeeded byMohamud Noor
Personal details
Ilhan Abdullahi Omar

(1981-10-04) October 4, 1981 (age 37)
Mogadishu, Somalia
Political partyDemocratic
Ahmed Nur Said Elmi
(m. 2009; div. 2017)

Ahmed Hirsi (m. 2018)
EducationNorth Dakota State University (BA)
WebsiteHouse website

In 2016, Omar was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives as a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, making her the first Somali American elected to legislative office in the United States.[3] On November 6, 2018, she became the first Somali American elected to the United States Congress. Along with Rashida Tlaib, she was one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.[4] Omar is also the first woman of color to serve as a U.S. Representative from Minnesota.[5]


Early life and educationEdit

Omar was born on October 4, 1981,[6] in Mogadishu and spent her early years in Baydhabo, Somalia.[7][8] She was the youngest of seven siblings. Her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, a Somali, worked as a teacher trainer.[9] Her mother, Fadhuma Abukar Haji Hussein, was a Benadiri, and died when Omar was two years old.[10] She was thereafter raised by her father and grandfather.[11] Her grandfather, Abukar, was the director of Somalia's National Marine Transport, with her uncles and aunts also working as civil servants and educators.[9] After the start of Somali Civil War in 1991, she and her family fled the country and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya.[12]

In 1995, Omar and her family's application to be resettled as refugees in the U.S. was approved, and they initially settled in Arlington, Virginia.[10][13] In 1995, they moved to Minneapolis, where she learned English. Her father worked initially as a taxi driver, later as a postal office worker.[10] Her father and grandfather emphasized during her upbringing the importance of democracy, and she accompanied her grandfather to caucus meetings at age 14, serving as his interpreter.[11][14] Omar became a U.S. citizen in 2000 when she was 19 years old.[15][10]

Omar attended Edison High School, and volunteered there as a student organizer.[6] She graduated from North Dakota State University[14] with bachelor's degrees in political science and international studies in 2011.[16][17][better source needed]

Omar was a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.[17]

Early careerEdit

Omar with John Sullivan in Paris as part of Minnesota's World's fair Bid Committee

Omar began her professional career as a community nutrition educator at the University of Minnesota, working in that capacity from 2006 to 2009 in the Greater Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. In 2012, she served as campaign manager for Kari Dziedzic's reelection campaign for the Minnesota State Senate. Between 2012 and 2013, she was a child nutrition outreach coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education.[17]

In 2013, Omar managed Andrew Johnson's campaign for Minneapolis City Council. After Johnson was elected, she served as his Senior Policy Aide from 2013 to 2015.[17] During a contentious precinct caucus that turned violent in February 2014, she was attacked by five people and incurred some injuries.[9] According to MinnPost, the day before the caucus, Minneapolis City Council member Abdi Warsame had told Johnson to warn Omar not to attend the meeting.[18]

As of September 2015, Omar was the Director of Policy & Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network.[17] The association advocates for women from East Africa to take on civic and political leadership roles.[19]

Minnesota House of RepresentativesEdit


Omar at the Twin Cities Pride Parade in 2018

In 2016, Omar ran on the Democratic–Farmer–Labor (DFL) ticket for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 60B, which includes part of northeast Minneapolis. On August 9, Omar defeated Mohamud Noor and incumbent Phyllis Kahn in the DFL primary.[20] Her chief opponent in the general election was Republican nominee Abdimalik Askar, also an activist in the Somali American community. In late August, Askar announced his withdrawal from the campaign.[21] In November 2016, Omar won the general election, becoming the first Somali American legislator in the United States.[3] Her term began on January 3, 2017.[22]

Tenure and activityEdit

During her tenure as state Representative for District 60B, Omar was an Assistant Minority Leader for the DFL caucus.[23][better source needed] She introduced 38 bills during her time in the Minnesota House of Representatives, none of which were passed into law.[24][better source needed]

Committee assignmentsEdit

  • Civil Law & Data Practices Policy
  • Higher Education & Career Readiness Policy & Finance
  • State Government Finance[25]

Campaign finance allegationsEdit

In 2018, Republican state representative Steve Drazkowski publicly accused Omar of campaign finance violations, claiming that she used campaign money to pay a divorce lawyer in 2017, and that her acceptance of speaking fees from public colleges violated Minnesota House rules. Omar denied the allegation about the legal fees, saying they were related to her campaign, but said she would return the speaking fees.[26][27] Drazkowski later accused Omar of using state resources and staff for private business,[28] and purchasing plane tickets for personal travel with campaign money.[29] An October 2018 editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune argued that Omar should be more transparent about her use of campaign funds. Omar responded that the allegations were politically motivated and she would instead focus on the issues.[15]

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit



On June 5, 2018, Omar filed to run for the U.S. House from Minnesota's 5th congressional district after six-term incumbent DFLer Keith Ellison announced he would not seek re-election.[30] (Ellison instead ran successfully for Attorney General of Minnesota.) On June 17, she was endorsed by the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party after two rounds of voting.[31] Omar won the August 14 primary with 48.2% of the vote.[32] She faced health care worker and conservative activist Jennifer Zielinski in the November 6 general election.[33] She won with 78.0% of the vote, becoming the first Somali American elected to the U.S. Congress, the first woman of color to serve as a U.S. Representative from Minnesota,[5] and (alongside former Michigan state representative Rashida Tlaib) one of the first Muslim women elected to the U.S. Congress.[34][35][36] She had virtually assured herself of a seat in Congress with her victory in the DFL primary. With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+26, the 5th is the most Democratic district in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. The DFL has held the seat without interruption since 1963, and the Republicans have not tallied more than 40 percent of the vote in almost half a century.

After her election, a proposal was made to lift the ban on head covering in the U.S. House.

Omar received the largest percentage of the vote of any female candidate for U.S. House in state history,[37] as well as the largest percentage of the vote for a non-incumbent candidate for U.S. House (excluding those running against only non-major-party candidates) in state history.[37] She was sworn in on a copy of the Quran owned by her grandfather.[38][39]


Political positionsEdit

Jeff Cirillo of Roll Call has called Omar a "progressive rising star."[40]


She supports free tuition for college students whose family income is below $125,000 as well as greater accessibility to student loan forgiveness programs.[41]

Health careEdit

She supports Medicare-for-all.[10]


Omar supports legal immigration.[42] She is favor of the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.[43]

Israel and PalestineEdit

Omar's position on Israel and Palestine has changed.[44] During her House campaign, she said she did not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, describing it as counterproductive to peace.[44][45] But a week after her election, her campaign office told Muslim Girl that she supports the BDS movement despite "reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution".[46][47]

Omar was critical of the Israeli government during her time in the Minnesota legislature, referring to the country as "the apartheid Israeli regime,"[48] recommending that the University of Minnesota divest from Israel bonds, and criticizing a law intended to prohibit the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.[48]

In 2018 Omar came under criticism for statements about Israel preceding her time in the Minnesota legislature. In a 2012 tweet, she wrote that Israel had “hypnotized the world” and was guilty of “evil doings.”[44][49][45] Omar rejected accusations that this was antisemitism. She accused the journalists who uncovered the statements of Islamophobia.[48][49][44][50][51]Journalists and commentators, however, continued to characterize Omar's comment as antisemitic; New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, grouped Omar's Israel tweet with an unsupported accusation Omar flung at Senator Lindsey Graham as exemplifying Omar's "predilection for making accusations based on nothing more than prejudiced stereotypes. ... Ms. Omar’s comments are proof that no party has a monopoly on speciousness"[52][53]

LGBT rightsEdit

After receiving the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign organization, Omar stated, "“I will fight for LGBTQIA+ rights in Washington D.C."[54] In January 2019, Omar was asked to explain a tweet in which she had written that South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was running for president at the time, had been "compromised" by then candidate Donald Trump.[55] Some conservative media figures perceived the tweet as tacitly homophobic. In subsequent tweets, Omar responded that her statement was not meant as a reference to Graham's sexual orientation, and that she was being unfairly maligned.[56][57]

Minimum wageEdit

She supports a $15 hourly minimum wage.[58][10]

Awards and honorsEdit

In 2014, Omar was named a rising star in the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party's Women's Hall of Fame.[17]

She received the 2015 Community Leadership Award from Mshale, an African immigrant media outlet based in Minneapolis. The prize is awarded annually on a readership basis.[59]

In 2017, Time Magazine named Omar among its "Firsts: Women who are changing the world", a special report on 46 women who broke barriers in their respective disciplines, and featured her on the cover of its September 18 issue.[60] Her family was named one of the "five families who are changing the world as we know it" by Vogue in their February 2018 issue featuring photographs by Annie Leibovitz.[61]

The 2018 documentary film Time for Ilhan, directed by Norah Shapiro, chronicles Omar's political campaign.[62] It was selected to show at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Personal lifeEdit

Omar is Muslim[19] and belongs to the Majeerteen clan from Northeastern Somalia.

In 2002, Omar became engaged to marry Ahmed Hirsi (né Aden). They applied for a marriage license, but the application was not finalized. The couple had two children together before separating in 2008. In 2009, Omar married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a British citizen. She said that in 2011, she and Elmi had a faith-based divorce,[63] and in 2017, the two were legally divorced.[27] She said that in 2011, she reconciled with Hirsi. They had a third child in 2012, and in 2018, they were legally married.[15] Omar, Hirsi, and their three children live in Minneapolis.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ NDSU Fall 2011 Graduates
  2. ^ "Profile: Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN)".
  3. ^ a b Blair, Olivia (November 9, 2016). "Ilhan Omar: Former refugee is elected as America's first Somali American Muslim woman legislator". The Independent. London. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  4. ^ Golden, Erin (November 7, 2018). "Ilhan Omar makes history, becoming first Somali-American elected to U.S. House". Star Tribune. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  5. ^ a b O'Grady, Siobhán (November 7, 2018). "Trump demonized Somali refugees in Minnesota. One of them just won a seat in Congress". Washington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Duarte, Lorena (October 21, 2015). "'Done Wishing': Ilhan Omar on why she's running for House District 60B". MinnPost. Minneapolis. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  7. ^ Reinl, James (November 15, 2016). "Ilhan Omar: First female Somali American lawmaker". Al Jazeera. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  8. ^ Omar, Ilhan (June 16, 2016). "Questions from a 5th grader". Neighbors for Ilhan. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Zurowski, Cory (November 7, 2016). "Ilhan Omar's improbable journey from refugee camp to Minnesota Legislature". City Pages. Minneapolis: Star Tribune Media Company. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (2018-12-30). "Glorified and Vilified, Representative-Elect Ilhan Omar Tells Critics: 'Just Deal'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-30.
  11. ^ a b Holpuch, Amanda (February 29, 2016). "'This is my country': Muslim candidate aims to break boundaries in Minnesota". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  12. ^ "Ilhan Omar elected first Somali-American legislator in the US". Al Arabiya English. November 9, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  13. ^ Karnowski, Steve (August 10, 2016). "Former Somali refugee poised to win office in Minnesota". Star Tribune. Minneapolis. Associated Press. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Omar, Mahamad (November 1, 2016). "From Refugee to St. House Race, Ilhan Omar Looks to Break New Ground". Arab American Institute. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  15. ^ a b c Forliti, Amy (October 17, 2018). "Minnesota House hopeful calls marriage, fraud claims 'lies'". Associated Press. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  16. ^ North Dakota, State of. "NDSU Magezine Winter 2017 Excerpts". North Dakota State University. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d e f "Ilhan Omar". Linkedin. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  18. ^ Nord, James; Bierschbach, Briana (February 18, 2014). "Allegations of threats, bullying follow Cedar-Riverside caucus brawl". MinnPost. Minneapolis. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  19. ^ a b c "Bio - Ilhan for State Representative - 60B". Ilhan Omar. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  20. ^ Coolican, J. Patrick; Klecker, Mara (August 10, 2016). "Ilhan Omar makes history with victory over long-serving Rep. Phyllis Kahn". Star Tribune. Minneapolis. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  21. ^ Sawyer, Liz (August 27, 2016). "GOP state House candidate to suspend campaign against Ilhan Omar". Star Tribune. Minneapolis. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  22. ^ Lopez, Ricardo (January 4, 2017). "Dayton, legislators kick off session in newly refurbished Capitol". Star Tribune. Minneapolis. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  23. ^ "Minnesota Legislature - Office of the Revisor of Statutes".
  24. ^[]=&legid1=15470
  25. ^ "Ilhan Omar (DFL) 60B - Minnesota House of Representatives".
  26. ^ Bierschbach, Briana (July 30, 2018). "Drazkowski: Omar's speaking fees violate House policy". Minnesota Public Radio Capitol View. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  27. ^ a b Van Berkel, Jessie (July 24, 2018). "Fellow legislator accuses Ilhan Omar of using campaign funds for divorce lawyer: Omar and her divorce attorney say allegation of misuse of funds is false". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  28. ^ Gockowski, Anthony (August 28, 2018). "New Evidence Reveals That Ilhan Omar, Democrat Nominee to Succeed Keith Ellison in Congress, Used 'State Resources' To Conduct Private Business". Tennessee Star. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  29. ^ "Minnesota lawmaker questions Omar's campaign spending". St. Cloud Times. October 10, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  30. ^ Potter, Kyle (June 5, 2018). "Nation's 1st Somali-American lawmaker eyes seat in Congress". Associated Press. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  31. ^ Golden, Erin (June 18, 2018). "DFL endorses Omar for Ellison's congressional seat". Star Tribune. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  32. ^ "Omar wins DFL primary for 5th District congressional seat". The New York Times. August 14, 2018. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  33. ^ KMSP (August 14, 2018). "Ilhan Omar, Jennifer Zielinski win primary for Minnesota's 5th District". Fox9. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  34. ^ Magane, Azmia (November 9, 2018). "Congresswoman-Elect Ilhan Omar Shares Advice for Young People and How She Deals With Islamophobia". Teen Vogue. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  35. ^ Newburger, Emma (August 15, 2018). "Two Democrats are poised to become the first Muslim women in Congress". CNBC. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  36. ^ "Ilhan Omar: Reaction to first Somali-American elected to Congress - BBC News". November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  37. ^ a b Ostermeier, Eric (November 13, 2018). "Ilhan Omar nearly breaks Minnesota U.S. House electoral record". Smart Politics. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  38. ^ Using a Quran to swear in to Congress: A brief history of oaths and texts, Pacific Standard, Jack Herrera, January 4, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  39. ^ Two reps were sworn in on the Quran. It’s a symbolic moment for Muslim Americans, Public Radio International, Tania Karas, January 3, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  40. ^ Cirillo, Jeff (August 13, 2018). "Abuse Allegations Loom Over Minnesota Race to Replace Ellison". Roll Call. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  41. ^ Faircloth, Ryan (August 24, 2016). "Debate spotlights veteran, newcomers". Minnesota Daily. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  42. ^ Witt, Emily (15 August 2018). "How Ilhan Omar Won Over Hearts in Minnesota's Fifth". New Yorker. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  43. ^
  44. ^ a b c d Benedek, Emily (19 December 2018). "The Charismatic Female Stars of the New American Left". Tablet. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  45. ^ a b Kampeas, Ron (August 15, 2015). "News Brief Ilhan Omar, who once called Israel an 'apartheid regime,' wins congressional primary in Minnesota". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  46. ^ "With Election Now Over, Ilhan Omar Voices BDS Support". TC Jewfolk. November 12, 2018.
  47. ^ "Muslim Trailblazer Ilhan Omar Admits She Backs BDS — Now That Election Is Over". The Forward. November 13, 2018.
  48. ^ a b c "Muslim Candidate for Congress Calls Israel 'Apartheid Regime'". Haaretz. July 9, 2018. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  49. ^ a b Harsanyi, David (11 November 2018). "Here's the anti-Semitism the media doesn't want to mention". New York Post. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  50. ^ "Rep. Ilhan Omar on Past Anti-Semitic Tweet". National Review. 17 January 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  51. ^ "Woman running for Congress in Minnesota rejects anti-Semitism accusations". The Times (of Israel). 8 July 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  52. ^ Weiss, Bari (21 January 2019). "Ilhan Omar and the Myth of Jewish Hypnosis A conspiracy theory with ancient roots and a bloody history". New York Times. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  53. ^ Jones, Emily (18 January 2019). "Muslim Congresswoman Who Said Israel 'Hypnotized the World' Now Sits on Powerful Foreign Affairs Panel". Christian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  54. ^
  55. ^ [1]
  56. ^ [2]
  57. ^ [3]
  58. ^ Berry, Erica (July 11, 2017). "The Country's First Somali-American Legislator and Her Politics of Inclusivity". Pacific Standard. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  59. ^ Mugo, Kari (October 23, 2015). "African diaspora shines at the African Awards Gala". Mshale. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  60. ^ "Minneapolis Rep. Ilhan Omar featured on Time Magazine cover". TwinCities. September 7, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  61. ^ "5 Families Changing the World". Vogue (magazine). January 11, 2018.
  62. ^ "'Time for Ilhan': Film Review | Tribeca 2018". Hollywood Reporter. April 27, 2018.
  63. ^ "DFL candidate Ilhan Omar explains marital history in statement". Fox9. Retrieved August 9, 2018.

External linksEdit