After House Democrats modified the rule banning religious head coverings in session, one of the first women Muslim members of Congress is set to take her seat wearing the hijab on Thursday.
One of the Democrats’ first order of business, when they take power on Thursday, will be to pass a package of rules to govern the House, including changing the ban on head coverings excluding “non-religious headdresses,” Daily Mail reports.
House representative-elect Ilhan Omar is thrilled that she will be allowed to don her hijab as she takes the House floor to give speeches and vote on issues at hand. While religious gear will be permitted in the 116th Congress, regular hats such as baseball caps and cowboy hats will continue to be banned, reports say.
Omar has been a strong proponent of allowing the headscarf in Congress and has long desired to wear her hijab when she’s sworn into office. Right after her election in November, she tweeted: “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.”
According to current rules in place, Omar could wear her hijab inside the U.S. Capitol building. However, she was disallowed from wearing the same on the floor of the House, where members vote on legislation and give speeches.
However, the Democrats — the party in control of the House now — have proposed a new package that would change the rules that govern the House. Omar was backed by Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Incoming House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern in her bid to remove the ban on religious headgear in the rules package they released on Tuesday night.
Pelosi is already throwing her weight around after naming a number of Democrats to non-partisan positions that influence control over the House. These include Cheryl Johnson as the new Clerk of the House, the position that controls legislation, and Douglas Letter as the new General Counsel, whose office handles sexual harassment issues.
Muslim women are religiously bound to wear a scarf around their head. Minnesota Democrat Omar will be the first federal legislator to don a hijab when she’s sworn into office Thursday. She is one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, with the other being House Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
According to the House Historian’s office, hats of any kind were banned from the House floor in 1837. The rules were modified to read the following with virtually no debate: “Every member shall remain uncovered during the sessions of the House.” Lawmakers and guests had routinely donned their hats while the chamber was in session in the House’s formative years.
Omar was 12 when she fled a war-torn Somalia and emigrated to the United States in 1995 with her family. They settled down in Minneapolis two years later. The 36-year-old became the first Somali American and first Muslim refugee to be elected to Congress. Also, she became the first woman of color to represent Minnesota on Capitol Hill, according to Daily Mail.