WASHINGTON – US voters elected two Muslim women pledging allegiance to Democrats to Congress on Tuesday, in a visible shift from the xenophobic rhetoric gaining ground in the country.
Amid growing hatred against immigrants, Somali refugee Ilhan Omar won a House seat in a heavily-Democratic district in the Midwestern state of Minnesota, replacing Keith Ellison- who is himself the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Rashida Tlaib, a social worker born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, also won a House seat in a district where she stood unopposed by a Republican candidate.
Congratulations to my sister @RashidaTlaib on your victory!
I cannot wait to serve with you, inshallah. 🙏🏾
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 7, 2018
The victory would increase the number of Muslim lawmakers to three as Congressman Andre Carson, who is African American Muslim won re-election in the state of Indiana.
The electoral milestone is in flagrant contradiction with the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment around the country led by the Republican Trump.
Rashida Tlaib’s selection was confirmed in August and she would be replacing John Conyers Jr, who served from 1965, until retirement last year following claims of sexual harassment.
In the nerve-racking contest, Ms. Tlaib took 33.6 per cent of the vote against Detroit Council President Brenda Jones who clinched 28.5 per cent of the vote; Tlaib had launched a massive campaign in which she raised over $1m and earned the confidence of public.
Interestingly, there are no Republican candidates contesting the seat, so Ms. Tlaib will enter Congress unopposed following a special election on November 6 for the two-year term starting in January 2019, when she will formally replace Mr. Conyers.
Ms. Tlaib comes from a humble background as she is the daughter of two Palestinian immigrants. She was born in Detroit in 1976, where her father had a job at the Ford motor company. Tlaib studied politics at Wayne State University, and then law, graduating in 2004.