Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar may become first Muslim congresswomen

Rashida Tlaib has become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

She is expected to share the honour with Somali-American Ilhan Omar, who was leading the opinion polls in Minnesota. 

Tlaib took Michigan’s 13th congressional district in a race in which she was the sole major party candidate. 

The Palestinian-American won the Democrat primary for the seat in August with around a third of the total vote share.

Omar is running in Minnesota’s strongly Democratic fifth congressional district. She arrived in the US, aged 14, after fleeing civil war in Somalia. She will succeed the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, who vacated the seat to run in  Minnesota’s attorney general race. 

Who are Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar?

Tlaib, 42, was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents.

She made history in 2008 by winning a seat on the Michigan Legislature, becoming the first Muslim woman to do so.

Her campaign platform included pledges to secure a $15 minimum wage, preventing cuts to welfare programmes, such as Medicare and Social Security, as well as stopping tax relief to large corporations.

Omar campaigned on a similarly progressive platform, which calls for universal healthcare and tuition-free colleges.

She said her political life began attending local Democratic Farmer Labor party caucuses with her grandfather after arriving in the US.

Islamophobia

The pair’s election to the US House of Representatives comes amid widespread negative feeling against American-Muslims by their compatriots.

A study released last week by the New America Foundation and the American Muslim Institution found around two in five Americans thought Islam was incompatible with American values, and that a similar number believed Muslims were not as patriotic as other citizens.

US Muslim civil rights groups say a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric comes from the media, as well as the country’s political establishment.

Researchers found that people identifying as Republicans were most likely to hold negative ideas about Islam and Muslims.

Another recent report, published by Muslim Advocates, found more than 80 instances of political candidates using anti-Muslim rhetoric in 2017 and 2018. 

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