Conservative pastor E.W. Jackson began his radio program Wednesday with an outraged rant about a rule change that congressional Democrats are proposing that would reverse a headwear ban on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The change would take effect next year, when Democrats resume control of the House and welcome the most racially diverse and most female freshman class in U.S. history, which includes the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. One of them, Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, wears a headscarf.
“The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic,” Jackson said on the show.
Friday morning, Omar shared a story from the Hill about Jackson’s remarks and offered a response of her own.
“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America,” she wrote. “And you’re gonna have to just deal.”
The Pew Research Center estimates that there were 3.45 million Muslim Americans living in the United States in 2017, accounting for about 1.1 percent of the overall population. By 2040, the center projects that Muslims will replace Jews as the country’s second-largest religious group after Christians.
Minnesota’s 5th District, where Omar won in November, is the most diverse in the state. Thirty-six percent of the residents there are people of color, and the district has the sixth-highest percentage of millennial voters of all 435 House districts, according to reporting from MPR News. With her victory there last month, Omar claimed multiple “first” titles: the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in Congress; and the first Muslim refugee, first Somali American and first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to be elected to Congress.
“When people were selling the politics of fear and division and destruction, we were talking about hope,” she said during her victory speech. “We were talking about the politics of joy.”
On Jackson’s radio show Wednesday, there was no joy in his political and religious screed about Omar’s hijab.
“We are a Judeo-Christian country,” he said. “We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity, and that’s that. And anybody that doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else. It’s very simple. Just go live somewhere else. Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on sharia law.”
The proposed amendment, co-authored by Omar, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rules Committee top Democrat Jim McGovern (Mass.), is not about sharia law. Rather, it would reverse a House rule that has been on the books since 1837, written 80 years before the first woman would serve in Congress and 181 years before the first two Muslim women would be elected to the House.
Omar, a Somali refugee, made history alongside another Midwest Muslim Democrat, Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
Jackson, a conservative bishop and vocal critic of former president Barack Obama, secured the Republican nomination to run for Virginia lieutenant governor in 2013 but was defeated by then-state Sen. Ralph Northam. Jackson is known for his incendiary remarks about non-Christians and homosexuality on his radio show, “The Awakening.”
In an interview last month with Roll Call, Omar offered an optimistic projection for what her presence and that of Tlaib in Congress means for America.
“In a time where there is a lot of religious bigotry, it’s almost perfect to have this counterbalance. My sister Rashida and I are from the heartland of America,” she said. “To be elected to Congress is a real rejection of that message.”