The Democrat, fresh off a primary win in Michigan, is one of about 90 Muslim-Americans vying for statewide or national office this election cycle.
A former Michigan state rep clinched a victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, paving the way for her to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress after she runs unopposed in November.
Rashida Tlaib, 42, is set to take the seat previously held by Rep. John Conyers, the civil rights activist and long-serving congressman who retired in December amid allegations of sexual harassment. “Thank you so much for making this unbelievable moment possible,” Tlaib tweeted early Wednesday. “I am at a loss for words. I cannot wait to serve you in Congress.”
Backed by Justice Democrats — the same progressive organization that endorsed New York insurgent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Tlaib bested five other Democratic candidates in Michigan’s 13th district for the two-year term beginning in January, winning 33.2% of the vote with 96% of precincts reporting, according to the New York Times. Her closest challenger, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, drew 29.2%. (Jones, meanwhile, appeared poised to win a separate special election to finish out the remainder of Conyers’ term.)
— Rashida For Congress (@RashidaTlaib) August 7, 2018
Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and eldest of 14 children, served in the state’s House from 2009 to 2014 before going to work as an attorney and advocate for the nonprofit Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice.
She had already shattered a glass ceiling in 2008, when she became the first Muslim woman elected to serve in Michigan’s Legislature. And she’s among roughly 90 Muslim-Americans vying for statewide or national office this election cycle, per the Associated Press, with about 50 candidates still standing after recent primaries. (Fewer than 300 Muslims hold elected office in the U.S., according to the nonprofit Jetpac, including just two in Congress.) A record number of women were also nominated for House seats this year.
“It’s not about just being out there and flaunting your faith,” Tlaib recently told CNN. “I always tell people that I’m exposing Islam in such a pivotal way, an impactful way, through public service.”
Tlaib, who supports Medicare-for-All, a $15 minimum wage and equal pay for equal work, has also positioned herself as a vocal opponent to President Trump. Exactly two years ago, for instance, she was escorted out of a Trump campaign event in Detroit after heckling the then-Republican nominee.
“Trump has created an atmosphere wherein my sons are questioning their place and identity as Arab Americans and Muslims,” she later wrote in an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press. “As a responsible parent who continues to reflect and read the criticisms of my actions, I think of my two boys and I remind myself: silence is not an option and it never should be.”
Tlaib previously told HuffPost that “people are ready for someone like me.” “I’m not talking about being Muslim, Palestinian, brown or a woman,” she said. “I vote the right way and go beyond that.”
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