Somali-American Minnesota state representative says harassed by DC cabbie

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2016 10:50 AM

(Reuters) - A recently elected Minnesota state representative who is the first Somali-born person to hold that office said on social media that she had been harassed for her Muslim religion and headscarf while riding in a Washington, D.C. taxicab.

In a Wednesday post on Facebook, Minnesota state Representative-elect Ilhan Omar said that she was subjected to a tirade by an angry cab driver while in the nation's capital for a White House meeting.

"I got in a cab and became subjected to the most hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced. The cab driver called me ISIS and threatened to remove my hijab," Omar said in a post that had been shared 976 times and drawn 282 comments by Thursday morning. "I am still shaken by this incident and can't wrap my head around how bold (people) are becoming in displaying their hate towards Muslims."

Omar said on Facebook that she had not yet reported the incident to Washington police because she feared for her safety, but planned to do so once she had returned to her Minneapolis district.

Omar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Minnesota's Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are home to a large Somali community, largely started by people who fled the country's civil war in the 1980s and early 1990s. About 39,000 people of Somali origin now live in the state of 5.5 million people, according to U.S. Census data.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation last month released data showing a 66 percent increase in the number of hate crimes against Muslims it investigated in 2015. That was far higher than the overall 7 percent increase in hate crimes against all classes of victims.

It describes a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity."

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Bill Rigby)