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USA: Nancy Pelosi Elected as Speaker of House While Two Women In Congress Are Sworn in on the Quran

Nancy Pelosi elected as Speaker of diverse US House of ...

 


California Democrat Nancy Pelosi has again been elected as Speaker – the third most powerful role in Washington – in the US House of Representatives.

She reclaimed the gavel after the most diverse class of lawmakers were sworn in and as Democrats took control of the House after mid-term elections gains.

As outlined on Wikipedia, in mid-November 2006 it was reported that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to the United States Congress (as a representative for Minnesota‘s 5th congressional district), would take his oath of office with his hand on the Qur’an.[1][2]

In reaction to the news, conservativemedia pundit Dennis Prager criticized the decision in his November 28, 2006, column titled “America, not Keith Ellison, decides what book a Congressman takes his oath on.”[3]

The column attracted national attention from supporters of both Ellison and Prager. Presented with the fact that all members of the House swear in (or affirm) en masse without the use of any religious text, and that such works are only used in ceremonial reenactments afterwards, Prager stated “that’s the whole point: it’s exactly because it’s ceremonial that it matters.”[4]

The controversy became more heated when Rep. Virgil Goode (R–VA) issued a letter to his constituents stating his view that Ellison’s decision to use the Qur’an is a threat to “the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America…[and] if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.”[5] Goode’s foray into the controversy caused many other members of Congress to weigh in.

Ellison went on to use the English translation of the Qur’an owned by Thomas Jefferson for the swearing-in ceremony.[6][7]

 

 

 

                                                 Ellison’s photo-op reenactment of his swearing in ceremony with Thomas Jefferson‘s Quran

 

 

Pelosi’s victory came as the US government remained partly shut down in a row over funds for the president’s border wall.

Ms Pelosi has said she wants to end the shutdown but will not support the wall.

“I’m particularly proud to be a woman Speaker of the house of this Congress, which marks the 100th year of women having the right to vote,” she said.

“And, that we all have the ability and the privilege to serve with over 100 women members of Congress – the largest number in history. ”

Ms Pelosi, 78, seized the gavel as the House welcomed more women than ever before in the 116th Congress.

Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(2ndL), a Democrat from New York, from left, Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, Jahana Hayes, a Democrat from Connecticut, Lauren Underwood, a Democrat from Illinois, and Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Democrat from TexasImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDemocratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (second left), Barbara Lee, Jahana Hayes, Lauren Underwood, and Sheila Jackson-Lee

A historically diverse Congress

As of Thursday, 102 women serve in the House, an all-time high, including 36 newly elected members and a record 43 women of colour.

While Republican women marked some firsts this past election season – like Marsha Blackburn becoming the first female Tennessee senator – the vast majority of these new lawmakers are Democrats.

Among them are the first Muslim congresswomen – Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar – and the first Native American women to serve – New Mexico’s Debra Haaland and Kansas’ Sharice Davids.

Nancy Pelosi (C), D-CA, is photographed with fellow CongresswomenImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionNancy Pelosi stops for a photograph with her fellow Congresswomen

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York also became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

While celebrating the Democratic diversity during the swearing-in ceremonies, some on social media highlighted the contrast to the Republican members, who are mostly white men.

Ilhan Omar becomes first to wear hijab in US Congress

Congresswoman overcomes 181-year headwear ban while Rashida Tlaib takes oath on Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson

Ilhan Omar holds the child of the Democratic representative Eric Swalwell during Thursday’s ceremonies.
 Ilhan Omar holds the child of the Democratic representative Eric Swalwell during Thursday’s ceremonies. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Twenty-three years after leaving a refugee camp in Kenya, Ilhan Omar on Thursday became the first member of the US Congress to wear a hijab.

Rules were changed to allow Omar, a Muslim sworn in on the Qur’an, to wear a religious head covering on the floor of the House. There had been a 181-year ban on headwear of any type in the chamber.

“No one puts a scarf on my head but me,” she tweeted last November. “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 Omar, a Democratic representative from Minnesota, with Nancy Pelosi.
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Ilhan Omar, (right) a Democratic representative from Minnesota, with Nancy Pelosi. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Omar, a Democrat, was part of a historically diverse freshman class in the 116th Congress sworn in amid cheers and jubilation.

The House now has a record 102 women and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African Americans, more closely resembling the US population and set to take on Donald Trump in a new era of divided government. But on the Republican side, the House still consists mostly ofwhite men.

Omar, 36, from Minnesota, tweeted: “As a kid, I acted as my grandfather’s translator at our caucuses and he was the one who first sparked my interest in politics. I wish he could be here to witness this historic moment, but he was here in spirit as I placed my hand on his Quran for the ceremonial swearing in.”

She was one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. The other was Rashida Tlaib, who did not wear a hijab. Tlaib took the oath on a Qur’an – a 1734 English translation that belonged to the former president Thomas Jefferson.

Tlaib wore a traditional thobe stitched by her Palestinian-born mother.

When she stood to cast her vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker, Tlaib’s sons, Adam, 13, and seven-year-old Yousif, were standing by her side.

Rashida Tlaib

@RashidaTlaib

This really happened. I am U.S. Congresswoman. Not bad for a girl from southwest Detroit who didn’t speak English, daughter of Palestinian immigrants.
: You helped change Congress forever. Now, let’s get to work to change our neighborhoods.

Pelosi was comfortably returned to the post of House speaker, making her once again the most powerful woman in American politics. The 78-year-old invited at least two dozen children to join her on the dais as she was sworn in, calling the House to order “on behalf of all of America’s children”.

 

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