One of the first female Muslim members of Congress will take her seat wearing the hijab on Thursday after Democrats change the rule banning religious head coverings on the House floor.
When Democrats take power on Thursday, one of their first orders of business will be to pass a package of rules to govern the House. That package changes the ban on head coverings to exclude ‘non-religious headdress.’
That means Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar will be allowed to don her hijab when she’s on the House floor to vote and give speeches.
While regular hats – such as baseball caps and cowboy hats – will continue to be banned, religious gear will be permitted in the 116th Congress.
Omar has been vocal about her desire to wear her head scarf when she is sworn into office on Thursday.
‘No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment. And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift,’ she tweeted in November after she was elected.
The current rules allow Omar to wear her hijab inside the U.S. Capitol building but not the floor of the House, where members give speeches and vote on legislation.
The Democrats’ new package of rules changes that.
The party in power proposes the rules that govern the House of Representatives.
Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Incoming House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern backed Omar in her request and included it in the rules package they released late Tuesday night.
Pelosi has not taken power yet but is already making her weight felt around the Capitol building.
She has named a number of Democrats to non-partisan positions the party in power controls in the House: Cheryl Johnson is the new Clerk of the House, the position that controls legislation, and Douglas Letter will be the new General Counsel, whose office handles sexual harassment issues.
More changes are expected to come as Republicans hand over control after eight years in power.
Many Muslim women wear a hijab – a scarf around their head – for religious reasons.
Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, will become the first federal legislator to wear a religious headscarf when she’s sworn in on Thursday.
She’s joined by Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib of Michigan as the first two Muslim women in Congress.
Hats of any kind were banned from the House floor in 1837.
With virtually no debate, the rules were modified to read: ‘Every member shall remain uncovered during the sessions of the House,’ according to the House Historian’s office.
In the House’s early years, lawmakers and guests routinely donned their hats while the chamber was in session – a custom that hearkened to British Parliament.
Omar, 36, was born in Somalia but she and her family fled the war-torn nation. They came to the United States in 1995, when she was 12, and they ended up in Minneapolis in 1997.
Her election to Congress brought many firsts: the first Somali American and first Muslim refugee elected. She also became the first woman of color to represent Minnesota on Capitol Hill.
She won the House seat formerly occupied by Democrat Keith Ellison, who was the first Muslim congressman to be elected to Congress.
Another lawmaker famous for her head gear, Democratic Rep. Fredrica Wilson of Florida, tried to change the hat ban in 2010 – when she was first elected to Congress – to no avail.
”It’s sexist,’ Wilson told the Miami Herald at the time. ‘It dates back to when men wore hats and we know that men don’t wear hats indoors, but women wear hats indoors. Hats are what I wear. People get excited when they see the hats. Once you get accustomed to it, it’s just me. Some people wear wigs, or high heel shoes or big earrings or pins. This is just me.”
Wilson is often seen in the Capitol building donning cowboy hats or sequined creations, of which she owns hundreds.
But she always takes her hat off and carries it in her hand before she walks onto the House floor – a practice she will have to continue given the exception on head gear was only given for religious coverings.
The wearing of the hijab, the burka, and other head coverings has become a fiercely debate issue in many European countries, some of which have banned them.
A report from the Open Society Foundations, an international philanthropic organization founded by George Soros, found there are only six countries within the European Union (EU) – Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Portugal, and Romania – that haven’t banned Islamic headscarves or face veils in some form or discussed a proposal to do so.
Source: Daily Mail