Ilhan Omar in Brooklyn: On Being ‘a Muslim Unapologetically’

Ilhan Omar at the Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA) Gala on Saturday, February 2. (Photo by Ala’a Assamawy courtesy of the Yemeni American Merchants Assn., via Bklyner)

Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, from Minnesota’s 5th Congressional district, was the keynote speaker at the first annual Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA) gala held on Saturday, February 2 in Sunset Park.

Bklyner’s Zainab Iqbal reports on the event.

“I know that the Yemeni community has a special fight in their heart, that they have a big drive, they know what hard work looks like, they are tenacious, they can be a little tough, they have a lot of fight in them, and there’s a special spirit that is in their blood,” Omar said about the Yemeni community in attendance. “It’s the spirit that used to be in my ummi’s blood, in my mom’s blood. It’s the spirit that was in my grandfather’s blood. It’s what he passed on to me.”

YAMA formed two years ago after 5,000 bodega owners in Brooklyn went on strike following the Muslim Ban. At the same time Omar was busy organizing people in Minnesota to talk and stand up “against this ban that would forever put a stain on our nation’s history.”

“The work that was getting done in NY was going to be one that transformed the conversation,” she said. “Because when people saw 5,000 Yemeni merchants and their neighbors rising up, they knew that Muslims here in the United States were not playing. That we were no longer going to sit on the sidelines. That we weren’t afraid and we recognized our power.”

Go to Bklyner to read more about the event, the many local politicians in attendance, what Omar had to say about the importance of voting and of motivating Muslim candidates to run for office, and about “being a Muslim unapologetically.”

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