Democrats plan to lift ban on religious headwear in US House of Representatives

'No one puts a scarf on my head but me' says Ilhan Omar

Zamira Rahim
Monday 19 November 2018 12:24
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Former refugee Ilhan Omar becomes the first Somali-American state legislator to win US House primary

Congressional Democrats are attempting to alter a 181-year-old rule banning all headwear from the floor of the US House of Representatives after two Muslim women were elected to serve in the chamber.

Banned since 1837, the politicians are hopeful that the amendment will allow people religious headwear, including the hijab and kippah, to be worn.

The push for reform comes as the Democrats prepares to welcome Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib into congress, the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.

Ms Omar will represent Minnesota and Ms Tlaib, Michigan.

Ms Omar will also become the first woman of colour to represent her state in Washington as well as the first Somali-American in Congress and the first federal lawmaker ever to wear a religious headscarf.

The proposal to relax the prohibition on hats was jointly proposed by Ms Omar, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Jim McGovern, who will serve as the chairman of the House Rules Committee from January.

Current rules about comportment in Congress include the hat ban.

The relevant clause states that "during the session of the House, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not wear a hat or remain by the Clerk’s desk during the call of the roll or the counting of ballots."

Announcing her campaign on Twitter, Ms Omar said: "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."

Attempts to alter the rule have been made before.

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In 2010 Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson challenged the ban. The politician, who is known for her collection of decorative hats, gave up her fight after the issue gained more press coverage than her legislative work.

Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib are part of a new wave of incoming Democrats who are changing the face of Congress.

They will be joined by Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, the first Native American women to be elected to the House and Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts' first black congresswoman.

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