December 18, 2018

Changing the rules

“I think it will be really exciting to see the stuff that we notice within the rules that don’t work for a modern-day America.”

So said Representative-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota concerning modifications to the ban on hats on the House floor.

Exceptions are now made for religious headwear and medical reasons. An example of the latter is a legislator undergoing chemotherapy and normally wearing a (presumably modest, discrete) head covering after her hair falls out. That is obviously a reasonable exception.

But Omar’s evocation of “modern” is not at all consistent with her insistence on wearing a hijab because of her submission to religious strictures.

Allowing religious headwear flies in the face of the ideal of the House of Representatives as a neutral – secular – space. That is the purpose of dress codes: not to deny diversity, but to reinforce equality.

While the world works itself into fits over Donald Trump’s imagined narcissism (as if it is different than that of any other politician’s, and doesn’t pale next to that of the candidate he defeated), here is pure narcissism in action.

Claiming a victory for “modern-day America”, Omar has forced a rule change in the House of Representatives solely on personal religious grounds.

If she feels she is not free to appear in public without a hijab, fine. The U.S. House should not submit as well.