By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Three Muslim candidates were elected to the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s election. Ilhan Omar won in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District and Rashida Tlaib won in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. They are the first Muslim women elected to the Congress. In Indiana, Rep. André Carson (D) won his re-election bid for the 7th District.
More than 90 American Muslims ran for office this year at the local, state and national level according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Jetpac, a group that seeks to build a strong American Muslim political infrastructure and increase American Muslims’ influence and engagement.
The CAIR exit poll survey indicated that 95 percent of eligible Muslim voters turned out at the polls. Seventy-eight percent of Muslim voters cast ballots for Democratic Party candidates and only 17 percent for Republican Party candidates.
What happens when Muslims and Islamophobes both win
CNN reported winning of two Muslim Women to the House of Representative with the headline: What happens when Muslims and Islamophobes both win.
Naaz Modan of CNN wrote:
The nation watched on Tuesday night as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two Muslim-American women, made history alongside many other trailblazers. At the same time, the nation also saw a striking number of Islamophobes get voted into public office. Witnessing two of our country’s most polar opposites collide — those who support American Muslims and those who fear or hate us — was for many alternately inspiring and scary.
On one hand, the significance of Tlaib and Omar’s achievements in becoming America’s first Muslim women in Congress is undeniable. For believers of a religion that has been demonized and scapegoated fiercely for nearly two decades and with renewed vigor during the last two years, the moment two Muslim women were announced as projected winners in their respective states was one that we will recall for our grandchildren……………. On Wednesday morning, for the first time, Muslim children woke up to celebrations of their faith and its representation in the government instead of fearing the opposite.”
Naaz Modan went on to say that Muslim-Americans, along with everyone else, also woke up to find Islamophobes like Steve King in Iowa, Paul Gosar in Arizona, Jeff Duncan in South Carolina (who was indicted on felony charges), and Mark Harris of North Carolina still in power.
Witnessing at once Muslim-Americans writing political history — paving the way for new representation of a large group — and a string of unashamed Islamophobes being elected into power by the American people was a bittersweet tug of war, Modan said adding:
“While watching Islamophobes tighten their grip on power was disappointing, watching Muslims get elected into Congress was a huge and overdue win the for the American Muslim community that has for so long sought representation. Everyday American Muslims can now look to their branches of government and know that someone is vouching for their rights instead of trying to strip them in the name of “patriotism.”
“Yesterday’s win could also signify a cultural shift for those who staunchly believed that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Having visible Muslims in office who celebrate their faith and background while also espousing the leadership qualities and understanding of the Constitution that should be demonstrated by American leaders overturns the false yet popular belief that Islam and Western democracy are at odds with one another.”
Muslim candidates triumph over Trump’s Islamophobia
Writing under the above heading, Juan Cole, chief editor of Informed Comment and Professor of History at the University of Michigan, comments about Tuesday’s election:
“Perhaps the most remarkable stories are the two Muslim women elected to the House, one from Minneapolis (Ilhan Omar of Somalia) and the other from Detroit (Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, but ultimately Palestine). They aren’t only women, and Muslims, but also refugees. They are Donald J. Trump’s worst nightmare and the antithesis of what he thinks America is or should be, if you listen to his rhetoric. But actually he has some commonalities with them.
“Tlaib’s parents are from the Palestinian West Bank (now under harsh Israeli military occupation)–her mother from Beit Ur al-Fauqa near Ramallah and her father from East Jerusalem. He was employed as an auto worker for Ford. One of 14 children, Rashida obtained a BA from Wayne State University and then a law degree from Thomas Cooley. She was a two-term Michigan state legislator.
“Trump has closed the Palestine mission in Washington, D.C., and slashed funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which used to care for people like the Tlaibs, who have been deprived of Palestinian citizenship by the Great Powers and the Likud government of Israel. Trump is behind an attempt to crush the Palestinians.”
Juan Cole also writes: “Here’s another first: Ilhan Omar is the first Muslim-American to succeed a Muslim-American in Congress, taking up the seat vacated by Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s new Attorney General.
“Omar lost her mother as a child. Her father and relatives were forced to a refugee camp in Kenya in 1991 for four years, and then managed to come to the U.S .when she was a teenager. She was ten and already abroad when George H. W. Bush senior sent Marines to Somalia on a humanitarian mission, which then went bad when foreign aid became entangled in warlord politics, producing Blackhawk Down. The U.S. has been deeply involved in Somalia.
“Trump has now banned Somalis from immigrating to the United States.”
Keith Ellison elected Attorney General of Minnesota
Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the House of Representative in 2006, was elected Attorney General of Minnesota Tuesday.
In a victory message Ellison said: “No matter what color you are, what your gender identity is, what your religion is, how much money you make, how old you may be, how healthy you are, who you love, where you live, or how you pray, know that as Minnesota Attorney General, I’ll be on your side fighting for your rights every day. Because we believe everybody counts, and everybody matters.”
Keith Ellison received national attention for his decision to use an English translation of the Qur’an, translated by British scholar George Sale in 1734, that once belonged to President Thomas Jefferson for his reenacted swearing-in ceremony, which generated praise and criticisms from political pundits.
Ilhan Omar is one of the first Muslim-American woman took up the seat vacated by Keith Ellison.
Muslims elected to various offices in California and New Jersey
Five American Muslim candidates were elected to local offices: Sabina Zafar, Aisha Wahab, Maimona Afzal Berta, Cheryl Sudduth, and Javed Ellahie. A total of 12 Bay Area Muslims ran for elected office in the November 6 election.
In New Jersey at least 11 Muslims were elected to various offices which include:
Assad Akhtar, Passaic County Freeholder; Mohamed T. Khairullah, Mayor Prospect Park; Alaa Abdelaziz, Councilman, Paterson; Hazim Yassin, Councilman, Red Bank; Sadaf Jaffer, Councilwoman, Montgomery; Salim Patel, Councilman, City of Passaic; Mussab Ali, Jersey City Board of Education; Mariam F. Khan, Dennis Township Board of Education; Mohammad M. Ramadan, Passaic County Board of Education; Alaa Matari, Councilman, Prospect Park; and Adam Chaabane, Woodland Park Board of Education.
Five Arab Americans were elected to the House of Representatives: Donna Shalala (FL) winning Florida’s 27th district, Ralph Abraham (LA) US Congress 5th District, Darin LaHood (IL) US Congress 18th District, Garret Graves (LA) US Congress 5th District, and Justin Amish (MI) US Congress 6th District.
Chris Sununu was re-elected as New Hampshire’s Governor. Michael Saba was elected to the Ninth District seat in the South Dakota House of Representatives. There were over 60 Arab American candidates running for office in local, state and federal elections.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com