WASHINGTON: The United States’ first Somali American Muslim legislator says she was harassed with “hateful” and “Islamophobic” language by her cab driver while visiting Washington.
Ilhan Omar — a former refugee who wears the hijab — was elected in November to the legislature of the midwestern state of Minnesota. She said the “taunts and threats” occurred after she left policy discussions at the White House and headed to her hotel.
“I got in a cab and became subjected to the most hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
“The cab driver called me ISIS and threatened to remove my hijab.”
Omar said she rushed to leave the vehicle and wrote on Facebook that she planned to report the incident once she returned to Minneapolis, as the driver knew where she was staying in Washington.
“I am still shaken by this incident and can’t wrap my head around how bold beings are becoming in displaying their hate towards Muslims,” Omar wrote.
The lawmaker’s victory was notable in a campaign season that saw Republican Donald Trump disparage Muslim immigrants and refugees before going on to win the White House.
The FBI last month reported that hate crimes against Muslims in the US surged 67 percent in 2015 — to the highest level since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The bureau’s Uniform Crime Report documented 257 anti-Muslim hate crimes, up from 154 in 2014.
Trump railed against Muslims and immigrants during the presidential race. In its final week the real estate magnate had targeted the Somali community in the state, where he ultimately lost to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton 45 to 47 percent.
Nearly a third of Somali refugees resettled in the United States live in Minnesota. They number around 25,000 according to 2010 data, the latest available.