‘Corrupt politician’: Somalis explain why they booed Ilhan Omar

Omar is adhering to the Democratic Party's values and not representing the community, some said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar was booed on stage at the Target Center Saturday night. (Rebecca Brannon/Twitter)

A large crowd gathered at the Target Center for a performance by a Somali artist booed Rep. Ilhan Omar Saturday night, prompting members of the Somali community in Minnesota to begin publicly calling on voters to remove her from office.

Omar represents Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, which has the highest concentration of Somali refugees in the U.S.

Several social media videos captured attendees shouting down Omar, chanting “get out” as she took to the stage at a concert featuring the Somali singer Suldaan Seeraar.

About 75 members of the Somali community took to Twitter Wednesday in an informal meeting to voice their concerns and disappointment with Omar.

“Right now we’re organizing in Minnesota to get her out and bring (in) somebody else … she took money from lobbyists … she is against our own interests in the community,” said Abdirahman Warsame, a Somali-American leader in Virginia and host of the meeting. Warsame said he is actively involved in Somali communities across the U.S.

During the meeting, Aphatah Hashim, who was at the concert, said, “Most of the community thinks she’s a corrupt politician; that’s why people were booing her.”

Several Twitter meeting attendees pointed out the congresswoman’s lack of support for Somalis in the Minneapolis area. Mahhraj Ali, a member of the local Somali community, said Omar has not fulfilled her campaign promises, noting Somalis are struggling economically in the Fifth District.

“We [in the] Somali community were the backbone for her coming to Congress. Since she was elected, we don’t feel like we were getting enough contributions from her into the community,” Ali shared.

Ali also said Omar went against the community’s moral codes and used propaganda to smear Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo, who lost the election this year.

Some considered Farmaajo the “best leader” they’ve ever had because he worked to unite neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Eritrea, and addressed the drug crisis, they said.

“She has divided us based on clans, something we have been trying to recover from for the last 30 years,” Ali said. “She attacked President Farmaajo based on clan. Her uncle was actually one of the few Farmaajo political rivals, and she was clearly supporting him.”

Others in the meeting accused Omar of welcoming people into her office based on tribal clan or relationships.

Those who elected her to Congress need help in basic areas like education and housing, according to Farhan Shire, a Minneapolis resident. “The federal government has lots of budget to enhance the community … she never addressed those things.”

Twitter meeting attendees also expressed concern over Omar’s support for the LGBTQ community, which some in the Muslim community consider to be forbidden.

“I saw what Ilhan is doing; holding down Somali [government] and every one supporting it & protecting gay people. She shouldn’t represent us,” one person tweeted.

Some argued during Wednesday’s meeting Omar is adhering to the Democratic Party’s values and not representing the community.

“She belongs to a … party and that party has a set of values, a set of principles that defines their entire policy, so she cannot be above that,” Mahad Caanogeel, another meeting attendee, said. “It might be hard to grasp because she’s Somali, but her party doesn’t have [the] interests of Somalia at heart.”

Warsame estimates about 10,000 Somalis have switched party lines in the Fifth District due to progressive views.

“That’s not really good on the Democrats in Minnesota,” he said. “It’s causing damage to the party.”

“She is a disgrace not only to [the] Somali community, but [to the] entire east African community who put her in office. She gotta go period,” another person tweeted.

Alpha News contacted Rep. Ilhan Omar’s office and did not get a response.


Pafoua Yang

Pafoua Yang is a reporter for Alpha News. She has worked as an on-air reporter for stations across the Twin Cities.