Ilhan Omar, the First Somali-American Lawmaker, Says Cab Driver Threatened to Remove Her Hijab

Illustration for article titled Ilhan Omar, the First Somali-American Lawmaker, Says Cab Driver Threatened to Remove Her Hijab

Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who recently made history by winning a seat in the Minnesota House, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon that she was “subjected to the most hateful, derogatory, islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced” by a Washington, D.C. cab driver yesterday.


On the way back from policy training at the White House, Omar wrote, the cab driver called her “ISIS” and threatened to remove her hijab, further evidence of the rabidly increased volume of threats and hate speech that have been flying around the country since Donald Trump was elected president.

In a response to a comment on the post, she wrote: “I plan to report once I am back home safe in Minneapolis. He knows the hotel I am staying at and [I] don’t feel safe enough to say anything at the moment.”

Omar, who has three children, fled with her family from the Somali civil war as a child and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before moving to the United States. In 2014, she was physically attacked by a group of men while working as an aide during a DFL caucus. “All of these identities that I carry are going to be an obstacle,” Omar told The Guardian in February.

She campaigned on equal pay, affordable education, police and criminal justice reform, and environmental sustainability, and won House District 60B in southeast Minneapolis with 80 percent of the vote. “Our campaign has been about more than just uniting a district, more than winning back the House, more than making history,” Omar said in one of the few bright moments on election night. “Our campaign has been about shifting narratives, restoring hope and re-establishing access in our democracy.”

A rep for Omar did not respond to a request for comment.

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.


The Noble Renard

I am genuinely shocked that this would happen in DC. If it was a cab and not an Uber, most cabs in DC are driven by immigrants.

That said, many of the immigrants who drive cabs in DC are Ethiopian, and she is Somali, and I can absolutely see that interaction happening in that circumstance. There are a lot of Ethiopians who have extremely negative views of their eastern neighbor Somalia.

That said, obviously it could easily have been a super-racist non-immigrant. Uber/Lyft draws a lot of drivers from the less-liberal suburbs. I am very sorry that this tainted her first official trip to DC. We want more people like her! We’re better than this.