Hijabs and kippas may be allowed in Congress for first time since 1837
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Hijabs and kippas may be allowed in Congress for first time since 1837

Female Muslim representative Ilhan Omar, who wears a headscarf, pushing to end ban on head coverings in House of Representatives

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., smiles during an interview following a photo opportunity on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, with the freshman class. (AP/Susan Walsh)
Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., smiles during an interview following a photo opportunity on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, with the freshman class. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Democrats in Congress are looking to roll back a 181-year-old rule banning head coverings under the Capitol dome, allowing Jewish skullcaps and Muslim headscarves to be worn by legislators.

The rule change, part of a larger reform package, is being pushed by Ilhan Omar, one of two female Muslims who became the first to be elected to Congress this month.

Omar, a Somali-born Minnesotan, wears a hijab, a head covering favored by some religious Muslim women. Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, the other Muslim woman elected to Congress earlier this month, does not wear a head covering.

“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,” Omar wrote on Twitter Saturday.

The proposal, which is backed by top Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, the incoming rules chairman, would create a religious exception on the no-head covering rule, according to Roll Call magazine.

Aside from hijabs, Jewish skullcaps, also known as kippas, would be allowed, as well as other religious headgear, according to the report.

The hat ban, which only covers the House of Representatives, was put in place in 1837, after several unsuccessful tries, including in 1822, when the rule was shot down because members complained there would be no place to put their hats, according to Politifact.

The Senate does not have a formal rule barring hats, but informal rules keep heads in the upper house bare.

This November 18, 2015, photo shows House Education and the Workforce Committee member Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat of Florida, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

It’s not clear if the rule would help Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, who has had to legislate without her stylish collection of sequined cowboy hats since coming to Washington in 2010.

That year, Wilson unsuccessfully tried to get the hat rule revoked so she could sport her headpieces on Capitol Hill.

“It’s sexist,” Wilson told the Miami Herald at the time. “It dates back to when men wore hats and we know that men don’t wear hats indoors, but women wear hats indoors.”

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