Rumors About Ilhan Omar Marrying Her Brother Unfounded — Details On How Conspiracy Got Started

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Was Ilhan Omar Married To Her Brother? New Details On The Rumor About Congresswoman From Minnesota

When Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was first running for office back in 2016, she did her best to get out in front of a giant, unfounded rumor about her personal life: she stood accused of marrying her own brother to help him get into the United States. Omar addressed the whispers with force, decrying them as baseless and absurd. She went on to win her spot in the House of Representatives and that should have been that. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't. Recently, President Donald Trump ignited a firestorm of controversy when he began spreading the rumors around once again as if they were fact. It's caused many people to wonder what the heck is going on, so here, in the interest of saving your sanity, I've broken down Omar's marital history and the reasons behind the rumors. Was Ihan Omar married to her brother?

1. The News 

President Trump has been in the news lately, loudly proclaiming that four female Democratic members of government should go back to their countries. He was accused of being racist (because he was being racist) and decided to lean into it and start spreading racist rumors too. Chief among them, the claim that Congresswoman Omar was at one point married to her own brother. Let's break down this pile of trash racism rumor, shall we? Here's how Omar's campaign spokesman, Ben Goldfarb, parsed Omar's view on the situation in an email during her campaign in 2016: "'I'm not legally married to two people, but I am legally married to one and culturally married to another.'" The matter was settled then: she had to refund some campaign funds used for housing on the road and pay a fine. End of story. But now, thanks to Trump, it's back. 

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2. Islamophobia 

In 2016, when the charges of bigamy were first lobbed at Omar, she issued a statement vehemently slapping down the conservative news media in her home state of Minnesota who were spreading these rumors. She called the rumors about her love life baseless and absurd and added that they smacked of true Islamophobia. But Omar wasn't the only one making moves when these charges were made. Her spokesperson, Goldfarb, was working hard to compose a narrative her constituents would understand. In an email, he wrote: "…we are probably in a position where giving real background information is helpful in tying this up. That said, having now tried to write a statement multiple times that says, 'I'm not legally married to two people but I am legally married to one and culturally married to another', I think it's impossible without making it even more confusing.'" A totally fair point! 

3. Omar's timeline 

Rather than get into the ins and outs of cultural versus legal marriage, Omar's camp made the decision for her to speak to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and break down her admittedly complicated and confusing marital status. From 2002 to 2008 she was married according to her faith to Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi. There was no marriage certificate ever issued, the couple shared two children. In 2009 she married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a Somali man who was living in the United Kingdom, at a state registry office where they were married by a woman who worked at the registry, Wilecia Harris, who was also a Christian minister. 

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4. The Overlap 

For a period of time, Omar was living with both of her husbands. That's the issue that people are getting caught up in. They are also getting caught up in stuff like which one of her marriages was "real" and which wasn't, it's easy to get up in details that don't actually matter, but the real issue people have is that for a while all three of them were living together. While people who care about this will tell you it's because they are concerned about bigamy, that isn't actually what they are worried about: what they are actually worried about is having a Muslim woman in a position power, proudly wearing a hijab and using the exact same system other politicians game to help a friend who was in need. Boom. Ya girl might as well drop the mic. 

5. Immigration and Education 

Omar says that the reason she didn't divorce her second husband for years was that she couldn't find him. She claims she thought he returned to London, when in fact, he had never left the state. The truth of the matter, and what conservative pundits are licking their chops about, is the fact that Omar could have married this second husband to help him get into this country and get an education that he might otherwise not been able to get elsewhere. That's literally all they have and none of it is substantiated. There isn't any sort of documentation to back up this theory. EL ZILCH. But, because Omar has become a target of Trump's wrath, the inconsistencies and vagaries of her marital life are being re-examined once more. 

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6. What About Her Brother? 

Trump made headlines when he said in front of a crowd: "There's a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to her brother. I know nothing about it. I hear she was married to her brother." He added: "I'm sure that somebody will be looking at that." What Trump was talking about was a rumor that her second husband was also her brother. A baseless rumor, at that. According to Business Insider, "The unverified rumors that Omar married her brother originated from an anonymous user on a Somali-American internet forum in 2016, and they have circulated around the internet ever since."

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.