America’s first Muslim Congresswomen sworn in

25th Jan 2019
America’s first Muslim Congresswomen  sworn in

Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (Photo: Safvan Allahverdi/AA)

Nadine Osman

Congresswomen-elect Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were sworn into the 116th Congress making history as America’s first Muslim Congresswomen.

The historic swearing-in ceremony on January 3, saw several historic firsts for women, including the first Native American women, elected, the first hijab-wearing congresswoman elected as well as the youngest women ever elected to Congress.

Omar of Minnesota and Tlaib of Michigan are joining fellow Democrat André Carson of Indiana who was re-elected for a total of three Muslim members of the House, the most diverse in history.

Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, was sworn in with her own copy of the Qur’an, though she considered using a 1734 English translation that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Omar, who arrived in the US 23 years ago as a refugee fleeing Somalia’s war, used the Qur’an of her late grandfather, who helped raise her.

Congress rules were changed to allow Omar to wear the hijab in the floor of the House. There had been a 181-year ban on headwear of any type in the chamber. And social media users posted photos of themselves wearing thobes, the traditional Palestinian gown that Tlaib wore to the ceremony, using the hashtag #TweetYourThobe to proclaim their pride.

Some women who flocked to Capitol Hill to celebrate the women’s swearing-in said they were particularly moved to see women raised all their lives in the Muslim community elected to Congress.

Two Muslim men, both African American converts have been elected to Congress previously: Keith Ellison, who just ended his term representing Minnesota, was elected the state’s Attorney General; and Carson of Indiana. Both Democrats, the pair are part of a diverse class of representatives — “transformative,” as Nancy Pelosi called them in her address after being elected House speaker.

A record 127 women will serve in Congress, with 106 Democrats and 21 Republicans — roughly 24 per cent of all the seats, according to the Center for Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Democrats Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American women elected to Congress, after a midterm election in which a historic number of Native Americans won Federal, state and Local offices. After defeating veteran Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is now the youngest congresswoman.

Most members of this Congress remain Christian (88.2 per cent), with approximately half being Protestant and 30.5 per cent being Catholic. 6.4 per cent are Jewish (out of a population of 1.7 per cent), the highest in American history.

Muslims make history in US midterm elections

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