Muslim women make history with wins in Michigan, Minnesota

Pauline Gross
November 7, 2018

First Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States.

"I'm Muslim and black", the hijab-wearing Omar said in a recent magazine interview. I'm only 42 years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King.

"I did not expect to come to the United States and go to school with kids who were anxious about food as much as I was anxious about it in a refugee camp", Omar said in an interview last month.

Before that, she had worked as a community organizer, a policy wonk for city leaders in Minneapolis, and as a leader in her local chapter of the NAACP - the African-American civil rights group.

In Minnesota, Omar, about 36 and a naturalised American citizen and state representative, follows another trailblazer: She will succeed US Congressman Keith Ellison, who in 2006 became the first Muslim elected to Congress and is stepping down to run for state attorney general.

"I ran because of injustices and because of my boys, who are questioning their (Muslim) identity and whether they belong", Tlaib said in an United States television interview in August.

The Democrat lived at the Daad refugee camp in Kenya for four years and could not even speak English at the time she relocated to the US.

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"I've never been one to stand on the sidelines".

A Muslim woman from Detroit has won the congressional seat long held by Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who stepped down amid sexual harassment claims by former staffers.

Tlaib won Michigan's 13th district, running unopposed.

The seat she won is in a predominantly African American congressional district with few Muslim voters.

She campaigned on a platform calling for free tuition and promising to fight to expand Medicare coverage to all Americans. She also has been mindful of the historic nature of her candidacy.

Tlaib, who served in the Michigan House from 2009 until 2014, defeated five other candidates in the August primary election to win the nomination to run for a full term representing the heavily Democratic district, which covers much of Detroit and some of its suburbs.

Other reports by GizPress

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