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Ilhan Omar in Vogue Arabia: ‘To Me, the Hijab Means Power, Liberation, Beauty, and Resistance’

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The hijab is the garment of submission: submission to male dominance, threats of violence, sexual appetites, etc.

Perhaps in America, Ilhan Omar means it to be a symbol of resistance, but to the audience she is talking to in Vogue Arabia (the Middle East edition of Vogue magazine, which is distributed in several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Lebanon), the woman there know exactly what the hijab means. And it is the opposite of power, liberation, beauty, and resistance.

Ask these girls what the hijab means to them. Oh yeah, you can’t. They were all killed by their families for not wearing hijab.

“Ilhan Omar: ‘To Me, the Hijab Means Power, Liberation, Beauty, and Resistance,'” by Alexandria Gouveia, Vogue Arabia, March 28, 2019 (thanks to Christian):

Twenty years after becoming a US citizen, Ilhan Omar made history in her adopted country. With her hand on her grandfather’s Qur’an, she was sworn into the US Congress, becoming the first hijabi member to do so. The scene was all the more poignant as it marked the lifting of a 181-year-old ban preventing anyone from wearing any kind of headwear in the chamber. Along with Rashida Tlaib (who doesn’t wear a hijab), she was also one of the first two Muslim women to enter Congress, and the first Somali-American….

As the US representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, one of Omar’s policies includes promoting and establishing a just immigration system; something that is at odds with the current political climate in the country. “It’s challenging,” she says of living in President Trump’s America, where her status and heritage is constantly criticized. “It’s an everyday assault. Every day, a part of your identity is threatened, demonized, and vilified. Trump is tapping into an ugly part of our society and freeing its ugliness. It’s been a challenge to try to figure out how to continue the inclusion; how to show up every day and make sure that people who identify with all the marginalized identities I carry, feel represented. It’s transitioning from the idea of constantly resisting to insisting in upholding the values we share – that this is a society that was built on the idea that you could start anew. And what that celebrates is immigrant heritage.”

Wearing her hijab allows her to be a “walking billboard” not only for her faith but also for representing something different from the norm. “To me, the hijab means power, liberation, beauty, and resistance,” she says. She has a son, Adnan, and two daughters with husband Ahmed Hirsi. Whether her girls, Ilwad and Isra, want to wear the hijab, is up to them, she says. “I grew up in a religious society and my father and grandfather believed that their role was to teach right from wrong. For me, that is how I raise my kids. I work to remove obstacles so they can live at their best and happiest selves,” she says. “If that translates to adapting the hijab, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s also fine. They have freedom of choice. Society tends to place lots of limitations, depending on what gender you are. I want my kids to be free.” She wants to share this approach with all women, advising them to be themselves. “Walk in your own path. We are as much worthy of joy, power, and pleasure as the next human. We are deserving and we don’t need permission or an invitation to exist and to step into our power.”

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