WASHINGTON: “Education is the first step towards empowerment,” says 21-year-old Alisha Khan, who was elected to the board of education in New Brunswick, a city in New Jersey. 

“I graduated from high school only three years ago, so I know what our generation needs,” says Ms Khan, who is the youngest among those elected this year to state legislatures in US mid-term elections.

Her parents migrated to New Jersey from Karachi. “Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. Together, we made history,” said Salman Bhojani, who is a Pakistani-American, like Alisha and Suleman Lalani. 

Mr Bhojani and Mr Lalani made history as the first Muslims and South Asians elected to the Texas legislature. Both are Democrats.

Now, “we build bridges here, not walls,” said Mr Lalani in an apparent reference to the Trump administration’s decision to build a wall along the Texas-Mexico border to prevent immigration. 

Their victory is also significant because in the Texas legislature, Muslims haven’t always been met with open arms. In 2007, Dan Patrick, then a state senator, boycotted the Texas senate’s first-ever prayer by a Muslim cleric.

Patrick now presides over the senate as lieutenant governor. 

In Tuesday’s mid-terms, 82 Muslims were elected to federal, state, local and judicial offices across the United States. There are a number of Pakistanis among them.  Axios, a news site, reported that a record number of Asian-Americans were elected this year, including several Indians and Pakistanis.

The site did not disclose the exact number, but published several names.  Among them are Shri Thanedar, the first Indian-American elected to the US House of Representatives from Michigan, and Aruna Miller, the first immigrant and first Asian-American elected as Maryland’s lieutenant governor. 

Earlier this week, Jetpac Resource Center and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a final count of 82 local, state legislative, statewide, judicial, and federal American Muslim electoral victories in the mid-term polls.  It is the highest since Jetpac and CAIR started tracking the electoral progress of American Muslims — 71, the previous high-water mark, was set in 2020. 

Of the 29 state-level Muslim incumbents, many were the first Muslims elected to their state’s legislature and kept their seats. The results pushed the total number of Muslim state lawmakers nationwide to 43.

Those re-elected include Madinah Wilson-Anton, a Delaware state representative, Iman Jodeh, a Colorado state representative, and Pakistani- American Saud Anwar, a Colorado state senator. 

In Georgia, incumbent state senator Sheikh Rahman will no longer be the only Muslim in the legislature as two Muslim women won by flipping Republican-held seats. 

Nabilah Islam will become a state senator and Ruwa Romman will represent the state in the House of Representatives. 

In a constituency in Indiana, Muslim Democrat Andre Carson made history by getting elected to Congress for a record seventh time.

He received 116,870 votes against his Republican rival Angela Grabovsky’s 53,487 votes. 

In Michigan, Democrat Rashida Tlaib was elected for the third time.

She received 196,601, defeating Republican Steven Elliot who received 72,889 votes. 

Another Muslim Democrat, Ilhan Omar, was re-elected for the third time from Minnesota. She received 214,217 votes against her Republican rival Cicely Davis’s 70,698 votes.

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim Congressman, was re-elected this year as Minnesota’s attorney general, receiving 1,254,369 votes against his Republican opponent Jim Schultz’s 1,233,571. 

Jetpac and CAIR tracked the election results of a record-breaking 146 American Muslim candidates running for local, state, and federal office, including 51 state legislative candidates running in 23 states. 

In a statement, CAIR’s National Executive Director Nihad Awad said: “We are witnessing the next step in the American Muslim community’s political transformation from marginalised voices that were sidelined, or worse, to decision makers.”

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2022

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