A refugee in Congress

Ilhan Omar wasn’t fazed by her rough few first months as a congresswoman, said Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker. The outspoken Minnesota Democrat was widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for comments about congressional support for Israel, but she’s accustomed to adversity: She was a child in Somalia when a brutal civil war broke out in 1991 and vividly recalls hiding as mortar rounds exploded around her family’s home. That experience has a lot to do with her passionate opposition to conflict and violence. “I have PTSD around, like, guns and ammunition and bombs,” Omar, 37, says. “I see conflict that has violence, and I think deeply about what the little children are going through. What we seek to do is good. But what we end up doing is causing hurt and furthering human suffering.” The youngest of seven children, she was born into a prominent family in Mogadishu, but the war forced them to flee to a Kenyan refugee camp. The family lived in that camp for four years before moving to the U.S. After the Sept. 11 attacks, she began wearing a hijab as an expression of her cultural identity, as opposed to a religious awakening. This year she became the first woman to wear the head covering on the House floor. “I don’t have a way of making myself less threatening as a black person, as a black woman, as a Muslim person,” she says. “And so it is just living with the reality that there are people who will see you as a threat.”