Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s new book, This is What America Looks Like: My Journey From Refugee to Congresswoman, is both gripping and controversial.
Already, questions have arisen as to whether she complied with House ethics rules, which prohibit House members from receiving book advances.
The memoir recounts her life story starting from her early childhood in Mogadishu, Somalia. She relates her harrowing journey as a refugee, escaping her war-town homeland and eventually arriving in America.
Her first days in America were filled with disgust and disappointment at the sight of garbage and the homeless in New York City. “This isn’t America,” a young Omar exclaimed.
She tells how her first years in America were filled with getting into fights and spending most of sixth grade in detention. Her high school years were apparently far less violent. It was also during high school, at the age of 16, that she met her first husband, Ahmed Hirsi, two years her senior.
In a statement she made in 2016 before she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, she said that in 2002 when she was 19, she and Hirsi (whom she called the “love of my life”) applied for a marriage license, “but we never finalized the application and thus were never legally married.”
“The idea of two people confining themselves in a legal and social construct because they entered into the metaphysical state of love always struck me as bizarre,” Omar writes regarding the concept of marriage.
She and Hirsi remained together for the next six years, during which time they had two children together, before splitting up (for the first time).
In 2009, she married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a man alleged to be her brother. Accusations that she married Elmi so that he could immigrate to America have swirled around for years. The FBI even got involved in investigating this possible immigration fraud.
Omar previously stated that their relationship “ended in 2011 and we divorced in our faith tradition.” Their legal divorce did not happen until 2017 when she filed the papers.
Meanwhile, Omar and Hirsi reconciled, had another child together and were legally married in 2018 shortly before Omar entered the U.S. Congress as the representative of the 5th district in Minnesota.
Omar recently divorced Hirsi and married her longtime political consultant Tim Mynett, after weathering documentation that the two had been having an affair for quite a while.
Omar’s love life has, understandably, been filled with long-running allegations of misconduct that have yet to see resolution (legal or otherwise). Thus, one would expect that there would be a section in her book providing new and detailed information to debunk these scandals.
Her coverage, however, was far from comprehensive.
In the book, Omar claims that during that period of her life when she split from Hirsi (the first time), she had a “Britney Spears-style meltdown,” which included her shaving her head as well as eloping with Elmi.
She writes that they were together for such a short amount of time that she “wouldn’t even make him a footnote in [her] story” if it weren’t for all the allegations surrounding the marriage.
Later in the book, Omar spends some time trying to dismiss the accusations — mainly by attacking the platform where they first appeared, saying that those who first accused her “would have gone to the Star Tribune with it. Not the Somali Spot” if they were true.
Omar highlights in the book her meteoric rise to political stardom. Starting as a volunteer on the Minnesota state senate campaign of Mohamud Noor, Omar later joined multiple Democrat causes in the state.
Eventually she was elected to the state legislature, beating out an incumbent of over 40 years and gaining a spot in the party’s leadership.
She recounts what led her to run for Congress after spending less than one term in the state house. She describes a phone call with Keith Ellison, who reached out to suggest that she run for his seat which he was leaving to run for the state’s attorney general.
Trying to dispel rumors that she hates Israel and the Jewish people, she writes about her infamous “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” tweet, where she engaged in antisemitic tropes and suggested that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is bribing lawmakers to be pro-Israel.
She highlights her apology for the tweet — “You can’t take away the past; you can only add to the narrative,” writes Omar – yet portrays it as a onetime event from which people should just move on.
However, she conveniently forgets that:
- In 2012, she tweeted that Israel had “hypnotized the world.”
- She regularly promotes the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.
- Has invoked duel loyalty tropes and accused American Jews of “allegiance to a foreign country.”
- Along with fellow member of “The Squad” Rashida Tlaib, she planned a trip to Israel and Palestinian controlled territories in conjunction with the group Miftah, a group that published a blood libel accusing Jews of using the blood of Christians to make matzos and republishing an article claiming Jews control the news media.
Overall, Omar’s memoir is interesting and gripping, and if you knew nothing about her — her antisemitism, campaign finance issues and marital scandals — you would most likely walk away being enamored with her. But that is kind of the goal.