A FORMER refugee has made history in the US becoming the first Somali-American Muslim woman elected to Minnesota’s state House of Representatives
In an election that starkly divided the country, one result was a glimmer of hope for people who opposed Donald Trump: Ilhan Omar.
The 34-year-old, who came to America as a refugee almost 20 years ago, beat out a Republican opponent to gain a seat in the state house of representatives.
Ilhan told the local paper StarTribune after her win: “It’s the beginning of something new. This district has a legacy of making history.
“I am excited for our progressive values and to be able to be on the ground at the Capitol representing the diverse people of my district and being a champion with them and for them.”
Ilhan, a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab, walked a long and difficult path to election, and won in a year where Muslims faced a barrage of hate crimes and threats.
Her victory came less than a week after President-elect Donald Trump referred to Somali immigrants in the area as “a disaster” during a rally.
Ilhan came to the US when she was 14 from a refugee camp in Kenya, a country which hosts hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees. She learned English in three months and later obtained a degree in political science.
After graduating, she became a community organiser and is currently the director of policy at Women Organizing Women Network, a group which helps empower and propel east African women into civic leadership roles.
She became the first Muslim woman to hold office in Minnesota and will now represent Minnesota’s district 60b.