History was made on the night of midterm election results on 6 November when two Muslim American women elected to the congress. Ilhan Omer and Rashida Tlaib becomes first ever Muslim women to represent their constituency in the Congress.The Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, both of whom won by resounding margins. This victory even becomes more historical as it came in the age of Trump.
Ilhan Omar, a 36-year-old Somali refugee who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, faced Islamophobic attacks during her campaign from outside conservative media outlets, who have baselessly claimed she was once married to her brother and has ties to terrorists. But those attacks didn’t sway the general election — Omar handily beat Republican Jennifer Zielinski in Minnesota’s fifth electoral district, for a seat once held by Rep. Keith Ellison.
She’ll be joined in January by Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, a Muslim former state representative who won her primary by running unabashedly to the left of the competition. Rashida is a left leaning Democrat, a real progressive face of Muslim women. Tlaib will replace disgraced Rep. John Conyers, who resigned after sexual misconduct allegations, in another safe Democratic district.
RashidaTlaib is the child of Palestinian immigrants, while Omar came to the United States more than 20 years ago as a refugee from Somalia. Both have made pro-immigrant policies a staple of their platforms and have been vocal critics of the Trump administration’s hardline approach to migration.
Tlaib and Omar’s victory, therefore, must be seen as part of a broader movement: one in which progressive women and members of minority groups are bringing their experiences to the fore to combat Trumpist rhetoric and policies alike.
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have both been explicit about the degree to which their identities inform their politics. Before her election, she told to the New Yorker’s Emily Witt that her opposition to Immigration and Customs Enforcement was rooted in her own consciousness of oppression. “I’ve always seen how it was created out of fear, and how it became a tool to dehumanize and treat Muslims as second-class citizens within this country,” she said.
Meanwhile, Rashida Tlaib told ABC news before the election, “I ran because of injustices and because of my boys, who are questioning their [Muslim] identity and whether they belong. I’ve never been one to stand on the sidelines.”
It is important to remember that the district won by Ilhan Omaris a predominately white and 70 percent Christian.The victories of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were fundamentally about their ability to connect with the needs of a population hungry for strong, progressive candidates.Both won because of their political thoughts and ability to work for the communities.
Their victory will encourage more Muslim women to engage in politics and break the stereotype about Muslim women.
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17 November, 2019