US Congress to lift 181-year ban on religious headwear

Somali American Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is behind this move to lift the ban. She will become the first federal legislator to wear a religious headscarf.




Somali American Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Photo: Twitter)

US Congress had banned hats from Hall of the House of Representatives also known as the House chamber of the Capitol for nearly two centuries years back in 1837. The newly elected congress woman from Minnesota Ilhan Omar is working to amend the 181-year ban and under a new proposal from Democrats, the rule would be relaxed to allow religious headwear, like a hijab or kippah.

“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.” Ilhan tweeted one week back.

The change was proposed jointly by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Incoming Rules Chairman Jim McGovern and member-elect Ilhan Omar as part of a larger overhaul package.

“When Omar is sworn in next year, she will become the first federal legislator to wear a religious headscarf. Her arrival will mark a number of other “firsts” as well. The Minnesota Democrat will be the first Somali-American in Congress and the first woman of color to represent her state in Washington. She’ll be joined by fellow Midwestern Democrat, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, as the first two Muslim women in Congress.” a news portal rollcall reported.

Hats of any kind have been banned from the House floor since 1837. The rule was put in place with little debate.

The hat ban is included in the rules of the current Congress in a section on comportment. “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,” the section reads. “A person on the floor of the House may not smoke or use a mobile electronic device that impairs decorum. The Sergeant-at-Arms is charged with the strict enforcement of this clause.”

Back in 2010, Florida Democrat Frederica Wilsontried to fight the ban on hats. She has a large collection of colorful and sequined cowboy hats that she wanted to wear while serving in the House.

“Hats are what I wear. People get excited when they see the hats. Once you get accustomed to it, it’s just me. Some people wear wigs, or high heel shoes or big earrings or pins. This is just me,” Wilson told the Miami Herald in 2010.

Omar had received the third largest percentage of the vote among the 140+ newly elected Gopher State U.S. Representatives since statehood.

Omar had won 78.0 percent of the vote – besting GOP (Grand Old Party aka The Republican Party) nominee Jennifer Zielinski by 56.3 points.

The rule change comes as part of Democrats’ broader promise to restore inclusion and diversity in the Hosue of Representatives.