Rule Breakers

These 7 Quotes From Rep. Ilhan Omar Show Her Resilience

From disarming hate to honoring human rights.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) rallies with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When Rep. Ilhan Omar took office in 2018, she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. As the first and only hijab-wearing woman in Congress, the Minnesota representative broke barriers before even casting a vote. Since then, she’s joined Tlaib and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley to form a progressive group, “The Squad,” with household recognition and Capitol Hill staying power.

Part of the group’s widespread appeal has been credited to their deft social media use. Omar, a former refugee, is often quick to speak out on Twitter and Instagram, even if it stirs controversy. This Muslim Women’s Day, we’re looking back at some of Omar’s most powerful speeches and statements, on topics ranging from police brutality to self advocacy.

1

On confronting hate:

At a 2019 banquet for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), she said, "You can't hate up close. Any time you have an opportunity to go talk with someone, the chances of them hating you lessen. So that is a practice we all should adopt."

2

On being an underdog:

At a Capitol Hill rally in 2019, Omar talked about fighting well-resourced opponents, saying, “I was born in that breath of recognizing that they might be more powerful than you are, that they might have more technology than you have, they might think that they are wiser than you, they might control all of the institutions, but you control your mind, and that is what sets you free.”

3

On surviving personal threats during Trump’s presidency:

She told the Capitol Hill crowd, “I’m a survivor of war. And if I survived militia, I certainly can survive these people.”

4

On valuing human rights:

In a 2019 op-ed for The Washington Post, she wrote, “Valuing human rights also means applying the same standards to our friends and our enemies.”

5

On becoming courageous:

In an interview with Vogue, she talked about how she defines courage. "People often talk about how I’m courageous, but I believe everybody should be courageous. Courage is being scared to death but remaining resolute.”

6

On addressing police violence:

In July 2020, at a press conference after the death of George Floyd, she said, “We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression, wherever we find it.”

7

On understanding equity:

In a 2020 op-ed for The Washington Post, Omar stressed the shift she believes needs to happen to fight for equality. “We need to jettison the zero-sum idea that one person’s gain is another’s loss. I want your gain to be my gain; your loss to be mine, too.