Ilhan Omar’s Many Firsts

Scott W. Johnson, City Journal, September 15, 2017

A little over a year ago, I recounted “The Curious Case of Ilhan Omar” for City Journal readers. Omar had just won a primary victory over 22-term incumbent Phyllis Kahn

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Minneapolis’s Star Tribune trumpeted Omar’s victory in a huge headline on its front page, proclaiming that the Somali immigrant’s victory had “made history.”

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Time recognized Omar in its collection of women “Firsts” for being the “First Somali-American Muslim person to become a legislator.” As I noted last year, Omar is also probably the first state legislator to have taken out a marriage certificate naming her brother as her husband.

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I believe that her purpose was certainly dishonest, rather than incestuous or romantic.

When I sent Omar’s campaign some questions about her marital arrangements last year, I received this response:

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“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.

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If you have any further questions regarding this matter, please direct them to me in writing so we have a record of any further communications.

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I did have further questions, but I never got a response. I haven’t taken it personally, though. Omar has not only failed to respond to questions from me; she has also failed to respond to questions on the subject from the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, and local television-news outlets.

Probably not referring to the practice of sibling-marriage, Omar told Time that she views her election as one that “will shift the narrative about what is possible.” She presented herself as someone who has overcome obstacles hobbling her progress.

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The double standards Omar has allegedly overcome, however, are nothing compared with those from which she has benefited. If Omar weren’t a Somali Muslim woman on the Democratic Party’s left wing, she might have been expected to answer a few questions about her marital arrangements. Time might have asked her about them. If she were a conservative Republican . . . well, it isn’t hard to imagine how that would have played out.

As it is, however, Omar has become a celebrity of international renown. Her complicated marital situation goes without mention. She is held up as a role model. She is called a “First.” Which she may well be, though not precisely as Time means it.

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