Muslim Women Win House Seats, Blazing a New Path

im-35355A Palestinian-American and a Somali ex-refugee become the first female Muslims in Congress

WASHINGTON—Two Muslim women from the Midwest were elected to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, making history as the first women of their faith to serve in Congress.

Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American, will represent Michigan, and Ilhan Omar, once a Somali refugee in Kenya, will represent Minnesota. Both received an overwhelming majority of the vote in their respective districts on Tuesday and join a surge of Democratic women coming to the new Congress.

President Trump has made inflammatory statements against Muslims and imposed a ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries that was upheld by the Supreme Court in June. The election of two Muslim women in safely Democratic districts illustrates the divide between progressive Democrats and Republicans who support the administration.

Democratic candidate Rashida Tlaib celebrating her victory with her mother in Detroit.
Democratic candidate Rashida Tlaib celebrating her victory with her mother in Detroit. PHOTO:REBECCA COOK/REUTERS

Ms. Tlaib, 42, and Ms. Omar, 37, align with the left wing of the Democratic party, embracing a goal of extending Medicare health coverage to all Americans and increasing the minimum wage to $15.



Muslim candidates rise above Trump hostility to focus on issues


Deedra Abboud, an attorney, is competing for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate in Arizona. She has never sought public office before. But she has become a fixture in national headlines – in part because of online vitriol generated by the fact she is a Muslim.

Abboud wears a headscarf. Slurs against her have included calling her a “towel head” and suggestions that Muslims should not serve in the US government.

Abboud told the Guardian she saw a “silver lining” in finally being noticed. But she also felt a familiar frustration. She is from Little Rock, Arkansas, as evidenced by her southern twang. Nonetheless, she has had to settle for being known as “the Muslim candidate”.

“I wear a scarf, I don’t want to hide it,” she said. “It’s something I want to take head-on. It’s just sometimes I think it’s relegated to only that.”

“We’re trying to change what leadership and power look like in this country,” said Fayrouz Saad, a 34-year-old from Michigan who if elected would become the first Muslim woman in the House of Representatives.

Nearly 100 Muslims are running for office at state and federal levels. Almost all are Democrats, few have held office before. Several who were interviewed by the Guardian said they did not want a disproportionate focus to be placed on their faith. Much like their opponents, they said, they wished to talk about the issues.


Minnesota Elects First Somali-American Female Legislator

On a day many are mourning, something to celebrate:


For me, this is my country, this is for my future, for my children’s future and for my grandchildren’s future”

Although the U.S. did not elect its first female president Tuesday night, one woman still made history.

Former refugee Ilhan Omar, who proudly wears the hijab, became America’s first Somali-American Muslim woman legislator after she claimed a strong victory in the Minnesota House race.

The 34-year-old moved to the U.S. at the age of 12, after four years living in a Kenyan refugee camp following her escape from the Somali civil war, the Star Tribune reports. As well as her political duties, she is director of policy at Women Organizing Women Network—a group that aims to empower all women, particularly first and second generation immigrants, to become engaged citizens and community leaders.





Donald Trump has made it clear: in his America, Muslim citizens don’t exist


The 2016 American presidential election has been an absurd, exhausting and bruising spectacle. Now imagine living through it all as a Muslim American. Somehow, this election has managed to cram all the Islamophobic sentiments of the last 15 years into the span of 15 months, and then morph them into one ugly thing.

Donald Trump is largely to blame. He called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the country until it became clear that the proposal was embarrassingly ill-conceived, only to be replaced by the equally vague “extreme vetting”. He fought publicly with the Gold Star Khan family, suggesting Ghazala Khan was not “allowed to speak” at the Democratic convention because of her Muslim faith. He accused Muslim Americans as a group of harboring terrorists. There’s more, but we all know the story by now.

His daughter Ivanka and wife Melania have defended him for his unforgivable behavior toward women, and Ivanka also recorded an official campaign television advertisement openly courting women voters for her father. Trump denies the charge he mocked a disabled reporter, and despite a bevy of antisemitic incidentsinvolving Trump and his supporters over the past months, he has also directlysought Jewish American support. Such is his style of leadership: he may insult you, but he still wants your vote.


Campaign rhetoric against Muslims spurs mosques to get out the vote

ct-ctfl-20160821-muslimvoter-009-jpg-20160828When Imam Nazim Mangera arrived at Chicago’s Muslim Community Center in December, he immediately encountered a feeling of deja vu.

In his last months as leader of a Vancouver mosque, Mangera had helped mobilize Canadian Muslims to cast their vote in a heated race for prime minister — a contest between a liberal candidate who went out of his way to show respect for Muslims’ religious rights and a conservative incumbent who had pushed to ban from Canadian citizenship ceremonies the face veil worn by some Muslim women.

Mangera arrived on Chicago’s Northwest Side shortly after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed that the government bar some foreign Muslims from entering the country, monitor mosques and kill the loved ones of radical Islamic terrorists.

In the U.S. on a visa from Canada and unable to vote, Mangera has done the only thing he can do to make sure Muslim voices are heard: preach.

“Every vote counts,” said Mangera, who occasionally incorporates “get out the vote” messages into his Friday sermons. “When we take part in the political process, politicians, even if they don’t benefit us, at least at a minimum, won’t harm us.”

For decades, Muslim leaders have urged the faithful to go to the polls on Election Day to perform their American civic duty. But a surge of anti-Islam rhetoric in this year’s election cycle has fueled additional efforts by area mosques to boost voter turnout. In addition to community leaders setting up voter registration tables in lobbies and booking buses to take people to the polls, imams in their weekly sermons are urging congregants to cast their ballots. Though they don’t tell the faithful how to vote, many say the choice is clear.

“They see the danger is in front of their own houses,” Mangera said. “It’s unfortunate that we have these negative aspects in life to encourage people (to vote).”


How American Muslim Women Are Taking on Trump

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign rally in Fredericksburg

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign rally in Fredericksburg, Virginia, U.S., August 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri – RTX2ME92

Donald Trump has effectively declared Muslims the enemy, accusing them of shielding terrorists in their midst, pushing to ban them from entering the country, and suggesting that the United States should start thinking seriously about profiling them. In response, some American Muslim women are speaking out against Trump and his anti-Muslim rhetoric.


“I never really felt like I was ‘the other’ until now,” said Mirriam Seddiq, a 45-year-old immigration and criminal-defense lawyer from Northern Virginia who recently started a political-action committee called American Muslim Women. “It’s a strange realization to have, but it’s what motivated me to do this. There are so many misconceptions about Muslim women, and I want to help counter that narrative.”

If the organization raises enough money, Seddiq wants to air ads opposing Trump in the run-up to the November election. Beyond that, she plans to host a voter-registration drive and hopes to build up a support network that will help Muslim women run for office.

Muslim women are uniquely vulnerable to sexism and Islamophobia. They can become visible targets for harassment when they wear headscarves. They are also often subjected to negative stereotypes and forced to respond to misconceptions that they are oppressed and silenced by their religion.

Donald Trump amplified those stereotypes when he suggested that Ghazala Khan, the Muslim American mother of a slain U.S. soldier, had not been permitted to speak when she appeared alongside her husband Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention. (She subsequently clarified that she did not speak because she was “in pain” over the death of her son.) Muslim American women denounced Trump’s comment on social media using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow. Facing a climate of Islamophobic rhetoric, and a rise in anti-Muslim violence, Muslim women in the U.S. are laying the groundwork for Muslim women to achieve greater visibility in American political life.

The 2016 election inspired Naaz Modan, a 20-year-old Georgetown University student, to start writing about politics and Islam. Modan said used to get defensive when she heard anti-Muslim rhetoric voiced by Trump or his followers. “I feel personally attacked in this election,” she said in an interview. But after a while, she started proactively speaking out against Islamophobia and about her beliefs. She began writing for a website called Muslim Girl. “It’s my way of saying, ‘What you think about me does not define me,’” she explained. “I define who I am.”


An American Muslim Mom on Faith, Parenting, and the 2016 Election

c0b4d5548083fecee0b967b38fd439f7Swept into this years electoral politics—and now devastated by Trump’s landslide this past Tuesday—it is easy to lose sight of actual faith. These are times that easily shore up religious identity: the far right attacks one because of it. The secular left, bless them, defends one’s right to it. But the truth is, beyond the staunch belief that no one should ever be persecuted because of it, I am not overly interested in religious identity. Faith is what actually drives me, defines me, returns me.

Faith is what I could not ever disavow, and what I have no choice but to assert. I looked up the definition of faith, hoping to find a template for describing what it is, exactly. But that was a mistake. Faith is so much more than a “strong belief in the doctrines of religion” to any person of faith.

So, I want to tell you about my faith. Partly so that you can decide if this is the stuff over which you’d like to see your Muslim neighbors and school children persecuted and harassed. Partly to suggest to you that 1.6 billion Muslims are engaged in something far less nefarious than either the American far right or ISIS would have you believe. And partly by way of introduction. It is a useful sort of introduction for this moment in America, because while each of us, in the deep intimacy of faith, is entirely unique, I also believe that faith, broadly defined, is the choir in which we all sing.

Faith was that thing that was waiting when I had nothing and no one else. It was the last hope for the most humble version of myself. Faith was for me that ultimate act of surrender, the moment in which I acknowledged that my assessments and desires were not only not the best guide for my life, but among the worst possible guides. I came to faith the way that many do, by creating unmitigated disaster in my life. And at that point of absolute ruin, felt the potential lightness of what remained.