Muslims make history in US midterm elections

30th Nov 2018
Muslims make history in US  midterm elections

Muslim Democrats’ Ilhan Omar and André Carson along with Rashida Tlaib were all elected into Congress (Photo: Lorie Shaull/ US Congress/CC)

Nadine Osman

Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar become the first Muslim women elected to Congress on November 6, in a US midterm general election which included a number of historic firsts.

Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland are the first Native American women to be elected to Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and while Jared Polis was elected to be the first openly gay male governor.

More Muslims ran for office in the midterms than at any time since the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, according to Jetpac, a group dedicated to increasing Muslim involvement in US politics. Jetpac estimates that 128 Muslims ran in the 2018 election at all levels of Government from very local (precinct captains) to national (senators).

Congress

Tlaib and Omar are joined by fellow Democrat Indiana Congressman André Carson who was reelected taking the total tally of Muslim Congressmen to three, the highest ever.

Carson was the second Muslim to be elected to Congress, following Keith Ellison of Minnesota in 2006.

Omar, 37, is now the first Somali American elected to the Congress and will represent Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, which spans Minneapolis, Edina, Richfield, Golden Valley and other suburbs.

She is also the first Muslim refugee to be elected to the House of Representatives, and the first non-white woman to serve as a US Representative from Minnesota.

In 2016, Omar became the first Somali American legislator elected to office in the US when she was elected a Democratic – Farmer – Labor Party member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Tlaibis was a Democratic former member of the Michigan House of Representatives, represented the 6th District, which is in Southwest Detroit and stretches from an area just south of Downtown to the city’s southern border, and west to the city of Dearborn.

Upon taking office on January 1, 2009, Tlaib a Palestinian-American became the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature.

In 2018, Tlaib won the Democratic nomination for the US the congressional seat from Michigan’s 13th congressional district. She ran unopposed becoming the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress.

Tlaib is a strong critic of President Trump and was once kicked out of a ticketed luncheon in Detroit in 2016 after heckling the then-presidential nominee about his policies and past treatment of women. After securing her primary win in August, she vowed to “fight back against every racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled,” and criticised the President for his harsh treatment of immigrants.

In her victory speech, Omar said, “I stand here before you tonight as your Congresswoman-elect with many firsts behind my name. The first woman of colour to represent our state in Congress. The first woman to wear a hijab. The first refugee ever elected to Congress. And one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.”

“When people were selling the politics of fear and division and destruction we were talking about hope,” she went on. “We were talking about the politics of joy,” she said.

Attorney General elections

Ellison narrowly defeated Republican Doug Wardlow to become Minnesota’s next Attorney General. With 94 per cent of precincts reporting, Ellison led Wardlow, a former state legislator, by more than 100,000 votes.

“We never thought this was in the bag, and it was a dogfight from the very beginning,” Ellison told supporters in Minneapolis. “There were challenges along the way and you know, we just kept on pushing.”

Ellison, the first Muslim to win election to statewide office, jumped into the race just five months ago, after incumbent Lori Swanson launched an unsuccessful campaign for governor.

A leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Ellison said he could become a crusading Attorney General, using the office to challenge the Trump administration in court, take on big business, and protect women’s rights.

Record Muslim turnout

A whopping ninety five per cent of eligible Muslim voters turned out at the polls, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Seventy-eight per cent of Muslim voters cast ballots for Democratic Party candidates and 17 per cent for Republican Party candidates.

“The high turnout of Muslim voters and the election of Muslims and members of other minority communities nationwide are an affirmation of the strength and diversity of our political system and a rebuke to the Trump administration’s divisive and fear-based policies,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

“It was obvious that many young people who voted were concerned about the direction of our nation and wished to make their voices heard in their local community and in Washington, DC”, he added in a statement to The Muslim News.

* In related news the Democrats are attempting to change a 181-year-old rule banning headwear in Congress to accommodate Congresswoman Omar.

The leader of the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, along with Democrat Rep Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Omar, put together a proposal with a number of rule changes for when the Democrats take control of the House next year.

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