The youngest of seven siblings, Ilhan Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1982. After civil war broke out there in 1991, she and her family fled to a refugee camp in Kenya, where they spent four years before migrating to America. Omar later attended North Dakota State University, where she joined the campus Muslim Students Association and …
The youngest of seven siblings, Ilhan Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1982. After civil war broke out there in 1991, she and her family fled to a refugee camp in Kenya, where they spent four years before migrating to America. Omar later attended North Dakota State University, where she joined the campus Muslim Students Association and eventually earned a degree in Political Science and International Studies.
After completing her formal education, Omar worked as a community nutrition educator in the Greater Minneapolis–Saint Paul area from 2006-09. In 2012 she served as campaign manager for Democrat Kari Dziedzic’s bid for re-election to the Minnesota State Senate, and also began a brief stint as a child nutrition outreach coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education.
Omar has long been a harsh critic of Israel. On November 16, 2012 – just a few days after Gaza-based Hamas terrorists had launched more than 150 deadly rockets into the Jewish state, prompting an Israeli military response – she tweeted that “the apartheid Israeli regime” had “hypnotized the world” in order to conceal its own “evil doings.”
Omar served as a senior policy aide to Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson from 2013-15. During her tenure in that position, Omar acknowledged that she was a friend of several young men who had joined al-Shabab, a Somali jihadist terror group allied with al-Qaeda, several years earlier. “They were happy young men,” said Omar. “And then at some point, something happened. And that is what needs to be researched and studied. What is happening to make them feel disconnected from a community that has birthed them, that has nurtured them?”
In 2016 Omar ran for the Minnesota House of Representatives on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party ticket. Soon after her victory in the primary that summer, she faced highly credible allegations that – in an effort to perpetrate immigration fraud and/or student loan fraud – she had married her own brother, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, in 2009 and was still legally his wife. Seven years before that, in 2002, Omar had married a first husband, Ahmed Aden, the father of her three children. When Minnesota attorney Scott Johnson looked into the matter and asked Omar’s campaign to clarify the facts, Minneapolis criminal-defense attorney Jean Brandle responded on the candidate’s behalf: “There are people who do not want an East African, Muslim woman elected to office and who will follow Donald Trump’s playbook to prevent it. Ilhan Omar’s campaign sees your superfluous contentions as one more in a series of attempts to discredit her candidacy.” When Omar eventually petitioned to divorce Elmi in 2017, she made a number of demonstrably false claims, including an assertion that she had not had any contact with him since June 2011.
Omar was elected to the Minnesota House in November 2016, capturing 80.59% of the vote. A few days later, she wrote a letter asking a Minneapolis judge to be lenient in sentencing nine young Somali-born men who had been found guilty of attempting to join the terrorist group ISIS. In her letter, Omar maintained that long prison terms would ultimately lead to the tragedy of unproductive lives and unrealized potential for the perpetrators. “The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people,” she explained. “It is the consequence for [sic] alienation.”
In 2016, Omar stated that she was in favor of completely divesting the University of Minnesota of its Israel bonds. The following year, she opposed a bill designed to counter economic boycotts targeting the Jewish state. While making her case against the legislation, Omar likened Israel to apartheid South Africa and said: “I know a little bit about discrimination. I face it every single day. I carry multiple identities that are constantly, constantly being discriminated against.” Indeed, Omar describes herself as an “intersectional feminist.” Intersectionality is the notion that the hardships experienced by people who are members of multiple groups that allegedly suffer societal injustices – e.g., blacks, Hispanics, women, LGBT people, Muslims, and the poor – greatly compound one another.
Omar vehemently opposed a January 2017 executive order by which President Donald Trump tried to place a temporary moratorium on the issuance of visas for people seeking to travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim nations that were hotbeds of Islamic terrorism. The following month, she was a key participant in a meeting whose purpose was to condemn Trump’s immigration policies and to “form a Sanctuary City Task Force to better protect and defend undocumented families, Muslim residents and refugees.” At one point during the proceedings, Omar said: “This ban on refugees is rooted in racism and Islamophobia.”
In 2017 as well, Omar was one of only two Minnesota House members (out of 129) to vote against a bill to allow life-insurance companies to deny payouts to the beneficiaries of people who died while committing acts of terrorism. That same year, she was one of just four House members to oppose legislation that would make it a felony for parents to subject their daughters to female genital mutilation, a common practice in some Muslim cultures.
In 2018, Omar ran for the U.S. House of Representatives seat formerly held by Keith Ellison. Her campaign was supported by Our Revolution (closely affiliated with Bernie Sanders) and the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which held three fundraising events on Omar’s behalf in distant southern California.
During a Democratic primary debate which was held at a Minnesota synagogue in August 2018, Omar was asked to specify “exactly where you stand” on the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative aimed at financially crippling the state of Israel. Her reply made it clear that she viewed BDS as a counterproductive policy: “I believe right now with the BDS movement, it’s not helpful in getting that two-state solution. I think the particular purpose for [BDS] is to make sure that there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive. Because in order for us to have a process of getting to a two-state solution, people have to be willing to come to the table and have a conversation about how that is going to be possible and I think that stops the dialogue.”
On November 6, 2018, Omar won her congressional race, capturing 78% of the vote. Just five days later, the publication MuslimGirl reported that Omar “believes in and supports the BDS movement.” When Lonny Goldsmith, the editor of the local Jewish news organization TC Jewfolk, asked Omar about the apparent discrepancy between her pre- and post-election stances, Omar replied in a text message: “My position has always been the same. I believe and supports (sic) the BDS movement, and have fought to make sure people right to support it isn’t criminalized, re: my vote against the  Anti-BDS bill. I do however, have reservations on effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution. Which is what I believe I said at the forum.”
Upon taking office in the U.S. House, Omar promptly joined the Congressional Black Caucus.
Aside from her political endeavors, Omar has served variously as an Advisory Board member for CAIR-Minnesota, Vice President of the Minneapolis NAACP, a Sister Planet Ambassador for Oxfam, a Board member of the Legal Rights Center, and the Director of Policy & Initiatives at the Women Organizing Women Network.
Further Reading: “Ilhan Omar” (Keywiki.org & Ballotpedia.org); “Dem Candidate Ilhan Omar Defending Tweet On ‘The Evil Doings Of Israel’” (Daily Wire, 10-28-2018); “Official School Records Support Claims That Rep. Ilhan Omar Married Her Brother” (PJ Media, 10-23-2018); “The Curious Case of Ilhan Omar” (Scott Johnson, City Journal, 9-9-2016); “Representative-Elect Ilhan Omar Working to Change Somali-Terror Perception” (AlphanewsMN.com, 11-14-2016); “Bernie Sanders’ New Movement Endorses Candidates with a Range of Israel Views” (JTA.org, 9-1-2016); “Omar and Lesch Only No Votes On Ending Terrorist Life Insurance Payouts” (AlphanewsMN.com, 4-21-2017).