Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar must be one of the most fortunate people in the world. She left Somalia during its civil war to take up residence in a Kenyan refugee camp. From the refugee she immigrated to the United States as a young girl and ultimately made her way to the Twin Cities with her family. She was elected to the state legislature at the age of 35 and to Congress at the age of 37. As the first Somali American in each of these positions she has become an intergalactic superstar. Norah Shapiro’s documentary Time For Ilhan focused on her election to the state legislature. Netflix can’t be far behind.
Her complaints represent the new assimilation. Nobody knows the troubles she’s seen — since she arrived in the United States. Discrimination and “Islamophobia” are a constant refrain.
In a column ostensibly devoted to hate crimes — Omar wrote: “Like members of the Jewish community, I know how it feels to be hated because of my religious beliefs. Almost one in five hate crimes committed last year was motivated by religious bias, with 18.1 percent committed against Muslims — well above the historical averages before President Trump’s election.”
In his Opinion newsletter dated February 12, Star Tribune editorial page editor Scott Gillespie noted: “Omar, the first Somali-American and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, has faced bigotry since immigrating to the U.S. at age 12 – a painful personal history she described when meeting with the Editorial Board for an endorsement interview last summer.”
Gillespie takes her complaints at face value. He does not pause to reflect. Omar is an extraordinarily ungrateful refugee. She habitually portrays herself as a victim. It’s an irritating if revealing tic. Her heart is full of hate.
Following her election to Congress Sheryl Gay Stolberg profiled Omar in the New York Times. James Freeman drew on Stolberg’s profile for his Wall Street Journal column “Ilhan Omar’s history of America” (accessible here on Outline).
Stolberg quoted Omar recalling “the first day we arrived in America[.]” Omar quickly concluded that it was not the golden land that she had heard about. “I think back to the orientations I went through a little over 20 years ago in the process of coming to this country, and in those orientations they did not have people who were homeless. There was an America that extended liberty and justice to everyone. There was an America where prosperity was guaranteed regardless of where you were born and what you looked like and who you prayed to,” she said, adding, “I wasn’t comfortable with that hypocrisy.”
Omar even blames us for terrorist attacks by al Shabab in Africa. According to Omar, “Usually most people want to not look internal and see what their actions that makes another react. For us, it’s always ‘I must have not done anything. Why is it happening to me?’ Nobody wants to take accountability of how these are byproducts of the actions of our involvement in other people’s affairs.”
She expresses no gratitude to the United States, no pride in her citizenship. She has weighed us in the balance and found us wanting.
Omar has been the victim of one known incident, though it doesn’t exactly serve as an indictment of the American people. Visiting D.C. after her election to the state legislature, a cab driver threatened to remove her hijab and called her “filthy” and “ISIS.”
The story of Omar’s unpleasant taxi ride nevertheless had a happy ending: “A judge suspended Uka Onuma’s cab driver’s license for 45 days, fined him $1,000 and ordered him to take anger-management and cultural-sensitivity classes.” The perpetrator was himself an African immigrant.
Omar drew the usual conclusion from her ride: “It is essential we recognize, what happened to me is not an isolated incident nor is it an extreme example of such encounters. Women and Muslims share these experiences every day.” The story, however, is susceptible to other interpretations. One such interpretation would involve the challenges of assimilation and the perils of our current immigration system.