US Congress Has 3 Muslims As 5 Candidates Enter State Assemblies First Time

SRINAGAR: In the about to conclude US presidential election 2020, all the three Muslim members of the Congress were re-elected. They are from Democrats and two of them are women.

American Muslim politicians Omar Ilhan and Rashida Tliab who were re-elected to the US Congress in 2020 on Democratic Party mandate

However, there have been other firsts as for as foreign origin Muslims are concerned. At least five Muslim politicians – again, all Democrats, were elected to the respective state assemblies from five different states.

Congress

The three Muslim Congressmen are Ilhan Omar (Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan’s 13th Congressional District) and Andre’ Carson (D) who was re-elected from (7th District, Indiana). They were in Congress in the last term as well.

The Somali origin American, Ilhan Omar, 38, defeated Republican Lacy Johnson. Rashida Talib, who is from Palestinian descent, defeated candidate David Dudenhofer.

André Carson (D) defeated Republican Catherine Ping and libertarian Chris Mayo in Indiana. Carson was first elected to Congress in 2008. He converted to Islam in 1990.

Both Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar won re-election with an overwhelming majority of the votes in their respective districts in Michigan and Minnesota. “Tlaib and Omar have faced incessant attacks from President Donald Trump as well as criticism from officials in their own party over their outspoken stances against the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians,” according to a report in the Middle East Eye.

Andre Carson

In an interview with Middle East Eye last week Tlaib said that she would continue her advocacy for rights of the Palestinian people.

Omar, interestingly, was active during 2019 summer on Kashmir advocacy. She attended at least one Congressional hearing in which she asked very uncomfortable questions to some of the individuals representing Delhi.

In the history of US Congress, there have been only four Muslims including the three who have retained their status in the just concluded election. The first has been Keith Alison who converted to Islam in 1982. He was in Congress between January 2007 and January 2019.

State Assemblies

Last night, Mauree Turner, Madinah Wilson-Anton, Iman Jodeh, Samba Baldeh and Christopher Benjamin were the five Democratic politicians who made history by becoming the first Muslim state legislative lawmakers in different US legislative bodies. These include three women.

“Mauree Turner, who won her race for state House in Oklahoma, will be the first Muslim lawmaker elected to the state’s legislature. In Delaware, Madinah Wilson-Anton became the first Muslim elected to the legislature. Iman Jodeh, who won election to the Colorado House of Representatives, will be the first Muslim lawmaker in the state’s history,” reported HuffPost. “In Wisconsin, Samba Baldeh became the first Muslim elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly similarly Christopher Benjamin became the first Muslim American elected to any state office in the Sunshine State, representing the 107th District in the House of Representatives.”

Turner, a 27-year-old criminal justice advocate, The Washingon Post reported is  “a queer, Black Muslim who wears a hijab” and has become “the first openly non-binary state lawmaker in the country”. An LGBTQ, she also will be the first practising Muslim elected to the Oklahoma state legislature.

Baldeh, a 48-year old Muslim who immigrated from the Gambia to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2000, joined local politics as an unlikely candidate. On Wednesday, he successfully defeated his opponents in the race for state Assembly to represent the 48th District.

Three of the five Muslim politicians who were elected to different US state assemblies in the 2020 elections (L-R) Madinah Wilson-Anton, Christopher Benjamin and Samba Baldeh.

“A member of the Madison city council since 2015, Baldeh said he was frustrated by the uptick of Black deaths at the hands of law enforcement and the vilification of Muslims by various political figures which motivated him to run,” Huffpost quoted him saying, adding “I hope [my win] is also an inspiration to particularly kids of colour and Muslims [to show them], ‘Look, we can do this. This is all our country and we should see it as such, and behave as such, and participate as such.’”

Similarly, Wilson-Anton said that she hopes her win will further shatter stereotypes about Muslims and Muslim women being oppressed or timid. “We’re all part of this country,” Huffpost quoted her saying.

President Joe Biden

The Democrats are inching towards the historic victory, even though, so far they have polled less votes than Republican candidate, Donald J Trump. Muslims have supported the Democrats and not Republican.

The Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden with his VP nominee Kamla Devi Haris, an American with Indian origins from mother’s side. Her father was a Jamaican.

According to a study conducted by the American Pew Research Centre in 2017, there are about 3.45 million Muslims in the United States, representing about 1.1 per cent of its population. “By 2040, the Muslim population in the United States is expected to exceed the Jewish population and become the second-largest religious group in the country after Christians,” the pew report said.

In this election, nearly 69 per cent of Muslim voters cast their ballot for Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden while 17 per cent supported President Donald Trump, according to a survey conducted by Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the US.

Donald Trump

Compared with the 2016 election, in which then-President-elect Donald Trump received 13 per cent of the Muslim vote, Trump in 2020 received only 4 per cent more support. Trump has been accused of holding a hostile approach towards Muslims. He initially banned people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. While in 2020 Trump has toned down his explicit anti-Muslim rhetoric, which marked his 2016 campaign, many Muslims in America have bitter memories of policies such as the Muslim ban.

Joe Biden, 77, is inching towards victory. He had previously vowed to include Muslim Americans in his administration and repeal Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.

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