(AP) – Dr. Mehmet Oz, who calls himself a “secular Muslim,” would be the first of his faith to ever serve in the U.S. Senate chamber if elected this fall.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — If Dr. Mehmet Oz is elected to the U.S. Senate this fall, he’ll be the first Muslim ever to serve in the chamber. It’s something he hardly brings up while campaigning, his Democratic opponent isn’t raising it and it’s barely a topic of conversation in Pennsylvania’s Muslim community.
Even if Muslims know that Oz — the celebrity heart surgeon best known as the host of daytime TV’s “The Dr. Oz Show” — is a fellow Muslim, many may not identify with him culturally or politically.
And in any case, Muslims aren’t monolithic and won’t necessarily vote for a candidate just because they share a religion, Muslims across the state say — he’ll have to win them over on the issues just as with all voters.
Oz, whose parents emigrated from Turkey, calls himself a “secular Muslim” and has said that the spiritual side of Islam resonates with him more than the religious law side of it.
He is also part of a Republican Party that is a political minority among Muslims and is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who earned the enmity of some Muslims for enacting a 2017 ban on travelers coming to the United States from five predominantly Muslim countries.
For a Republican Party more accustomed to electing white Christians, Oz’s religion is a strange bedfellow. Some Muslims say they have felt an animosity from the party in the past and Muslim candidates themselves have faced attacks from GOP rivals.
In a brief interview, Oz said it is good for the United States’ leadership to show that it can elect Muslims, and it is good for Muslims to see one of their own elected to the U.S. Senate.
That kind of success would reinforce the message that “if you work hard in America, no matter what your heritage we treasure you,” Oz said.
Oz won the GOP’s seven-way May primary in a contest so narrow it triggered a statewide recount and he now faces Democrat John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, in the Nov. 8 election. The contest in the presidential battleground state could help determine partisan control of the Senate next year.