In historic victories tonight, both Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have become the United States’ first-ever Muslim women in Congress. Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar won her race for US Representative in Minnesota's 5th congressional district, while former Michigan House Representative Rashida Tlaib ran uncontested in her race for US Representative in Michigan's 13th congressional district.
After hate crimes against Muslims surged in the aftermath of Trump’s election and continuous anti-Muslim rhetoric, Omar and Tlaib's wins are a huge victory for American Muslims, particularly American Muslim women, who for so long have not been represented in their federal government.
Omar, a Somali-American and former refugee, and Tlaib, a Palestinian-American daughter of immigrants, have faced their fair share of adversity during their time in office and on the campaign trail. Omar has been called “ISIS" by a man who threatened to remove her hijab and has been targeted by far-right activist Laura Loomer with Islamophobic remarks. Loomer has also confronted Tlaib with similarly racist remarks online and in person.
“I will fight back against every racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled,” Tlaib told a crowd after her primary win in August. “You deserve better than what we have today with our president.”
There have only been two Muslims elected to Congress ever in US history—Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. André Carson.
Tlaib and Omar’s identities as not only Muslim women, but Somali and Palestinian women, respectively, are arguably equally as significant as their religion. Somalia, which Omar fled during the civil war in 1991, is one of the seven countries targeted in Trump’s polarizing travel ban. As a Palestinian-American, Tlaib’s support for Palestine will make her notable as an outlier among the majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
Tlaib and Omar have been cheering each other on throughout their campaigns. Hours before Omar’s results came through, she tweeted a message to Tlaib: “Congratulations to my sister @RashidaTlaib on your victory! I cannot wait to serve with you, inshallah.”