Rep. Ilhan Omar's Dad Dies from COVID-19 Complications: 'No Words Can Describe What He Meant to Me'

She quoted the Quran in a tweet remembering her father: "Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return"

Minnesota Congressional Candidate Ilhan Omar Attends Election Night Event In Minneapolis
From left: Rep. Ilhan Omar with her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, in 2018. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar said Monday that her father had died from complications of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

“No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew him,” she said in a statement announcing the death of dad Nur Omar Mohamed.

“My family and I ask for your respect and privacy during this time,” she said.

In a Monday night tweet echoing her statement, she wrote of her "tremendous sadness and pain ... to say goodbye" to her father. She also quoted the Quran: "Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return."

Other details about Mohamed's illness and death were not released.

"I am so sorry to hear about your loss, Ilhan," Jane O'Meara Sanders, the wife of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, replied to Omar on Twitter. "Your dad was so proud of you! Sending love and support from our family to you and your family."

Omar, 37, rose to national prominence following her November 2018 election win as one of Congress' most visible progressive politicians — arguing for policies that have made her a lightning rod among conservatives. (She has also drawn occasional wider criticism, particularly over how she discusses the Israeli conflict with the Palestinians.)

Omar was the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress and one of the first Muslim women.

US House Representative Ilhan Omar (2nd-R), D-MN, with her hand on the Quran, participates in a ceremonial swearing-in with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (2nd-L), D-CA, during the start of the 116th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2019.
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (right) next to her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, during a ceremonial swearing-in with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the start of the the 116th Congress on Jan. 3, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

A child refugee of the Somali civil war, she and her family later spent three years in a camp in Kenya before arriving in the U.S. in 1995.

A recent memoir, This Is What America Looks Like, recounts her escape from her birthplace, her new life in America and her political career as well as the years it took for her to process the long shadow of what she had survived.

"It was torture. It was torture, absolutely," she recently told PEOPLE of the writing process. "I am someone who goes through moments in life. ... And that has been part of my survival. At times, that has caught up with me. The writing process for this book, it was painful to have all of those moments come to life. And to not only write about them, but to think through how those moments have impacted my life and shaped the person I am today."

"As someone who really is a complete unicorn in American politics today, I wanted to give the readers the opportunity to really get to know me on a personal level," Omar says. "And give them the chance to see the kind of trials and triumphs I've had. ... Your today never really has to determine your tomorrow. There's always a brighter day if you're willing to fight for it."

Nationwide, the novel coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 116,000 people out of more than 2 million cases, according to available data.

The illness has affected high-profile political families as well: In April, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said it had killed her older brother Don.

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