Through a barrage of selfies, squeals of excitement, exclamations of “alhamdillah” (God is great in Arabic), nearly 100 people gathered in a conference room in Washington D.C. to welcome Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar before she was sworn in to Congress on Thursday.
Surrounded by her father, her sister, and her immediate family, Omar made her way through a throng of supporters from the Somali community, representatives from mosques in Minnesota and elsewhere, and groups who have helped her campaign from the start in Minneapolis.
Many of her supporters were Somali-Americans who said they were excited to welcome the first Somali-American to Congress and a hijab-wearing, mother of three with a bold agenda.
Omar has spoken openly about her four years in a refugee camp as a girl, and about her experience as an immigrant in the United States.
23 years ago, from a refugee camp in Kenya, my father and I arrived at an airport in Washington DC.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 2, 2019
Her election to office comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken out against allowing refugees into the U.S.
One of Omar’s key policy points is abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and reforming Trump’s immigration system, something she says is inhumane.
Instead of extending humanity and compassion to migrants and refugees seeking a better life, we treat them as criminals. We should be welcoming immigrants into our country, not demonizing them.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 17, 2018
For many of the people gathered to greet Omar, her election was seen as the epitome of the American dream.
“It’s a big deal,” Fatima Ahmed, a Somali-American who is now living in Virginia, told CGTN. “I brought my daughters here to show them that in America, you really have the opportunity to do anything,” and that Omar’s election proves “that the sky is the limit.”
She was sworn in to the 116th congress Thursday afternoon along with Rashida Tlaib, the Congresswoman from Michigan. The two congresswomen are now the first Muslim women to ever serve in Congress.
Tlaib, who is a Palestinian-American has also touted her heritage, wearing the traditional thobe, or dress, to her swearing in. Quickly, #TweetYourThobe was trending on Twitter with fellow Palestinian-Americans sharing images.
In Honor of @RashidaTlaib being sworn in as the first Palestinian-American Muslim woman in Congress while wearing her traditional Palestinian Thobe … here are some pics in our Thobes ! #tweetyourthobe #SoProud #palestinian 🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/pW5PFDHDCa
— LayLay (@Beraweih) January 3, 2019
As the son of a Palestinian mother, its a milestone for Palestinian-Americans to see their culture and heritage reflected in their elected officials. Young girls like my daughter and niece now have officials they can see & aspire to be like one day! @RashidaTlaib #tweetyourthobe pic.twitter.com/zJ9RPuAXPi
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) January 3, 2019
— Rasha (@RashaMK) January 3, 2019
The 116th Congress includes more than 100 women from diverse backgrounds.