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Muslim congress-women to defend seats

28th Aug 2020
Muslim congress-women to defend seats

Ilhan Omar & Rashida Tlaib (Credit: Kristie Boyd/US House Office)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Muslim congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are on course to defend their seats in the November elections alongside their fellow progressive “Squad” members after defeating Democratic primary challengers.

Minnesota representative Omar successfully defeated attorney Antone Melton-Meaux on August 11, a week earlier Michigan representative Tlaib defeated Brenda Jones, the president of the Detroit City Council, Tlaib getting 66 per cent of the vote to Jones’s 34 per cent.

Palestinian-American Tlaib, who along with Omar became the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress in 2018, beat back a challenge from a repeat rival, significantly widening her 2018 margin of victory and helping to cement the staying power of the progressive women of colour who have shaped the party’s House majority.

Tlaib has become well-known for her Palestinian advocacy inside Congress, showing up to this year’s State of the Union in a traditional thobe and at one point being banned from entering Israel due to her activism.

Throughout her time in Congress, Omar, who came to the US as a refugee from Somalia has faced widespread scrutiny and criticism over her stance on Israel. She also faced racist attacks and questions on her motives for joining Congress.

Omar, Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) have won their primary races, with fourth ‘Squad’ member Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts) running unopposed in her primary in September. Omar’s challenger, Melton-Meaux, raised millions for his campaign, six times more than she did, had sought to draw support away from Omar by accusing her of caring more about her national image than about her local constituents.

He also honed in on the incumbent’s past comments on Israeli lobbying power, which some have branded anti-Semitic, and had the backing of some pro-Israel groups, according to Reuters.

Omar’s election victory occurred on the same day that presidential hopeful Joe Biden named Senator Kamala Devi Harris, a former rival in the White House race, as his running mate, marking a historic first for American women of colour.

Biden’s announcement capped a months-long search for a Democratic partner to challenge President Donald Trump on November 3. Harris, who is half African American half Indian American would become the country’s first female, first female black as well as first Asian vice president if elected.Biden, 77, described his running mate as a “fearless fighter for the little guy and one of the country’s finest public servants.”

The decision was a crucial moment for Biden as he aims to build a broad coalition of voters. It also provided an early financial windfall he said, tweeting after the vice-president announcement that “we are on track to have our biggest fundraising day ever.”

Harris, who at 55 is two decades Biden’s junior, could appeal to younger voters and women, particularly those in the suburbs who have been fleeing Trump.

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