Monday, June 19, 2017

First Somali-American lawmaker Ilhan Omar: Muslims 'no longer alone'

(azcentral) -The Minneapolis bus was crowded, but Ilhan Omar felt alone.
It was just after Sept. 11, and the "visibly Muslim" Somali refugee had noticed neighbors, colleagues and teachers growing increasingly suspicious of people who looked like she did.

"I remember … feeling everyone on the bus was staring at me," said Omar, who made history this year as the country's first Muslim refugee to hold elected office. "I remember thinking, 'I don’t know who’s a friend. I don’t know who would help me. I don’t know who would stand up for me if I was attacked today.' "

A similar uneasiness took hold after Donald Trump's election, Omar told the 300 people gathered to hear her speak in Phoenix on Monday. At the civil-rights dinner hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Arizona chapter, the Minnesota legislator described the president as "a leader who preys on people's fear" and "spreads the disease of hate."
Unlike in the aftermath of 9/11, however, Omar hasn't felt abandoned. Instead, she has seen "people who were once silent" rise in defense of Muslims over and over again.

She pointed to the "three men, complete strangers, who stood up to a white supremacist to protect Muslim girls on a public train" in Portland in May. Two of the men died.

She described Minneapolis streets "lined with signs that say 'Muslims and refugees welcome here.' "

She cheered the counter-protesters who faced off with participants in "anti-Sharia law" rallies, organized earlier this month by a group the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed extremist.

"It’s frustrating to fight for your own humanity. It’s infuriating to advocate for your own inherent worth as a person," Omar said. "But (Muslims) are no longer alone."
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