Americans for the first time sent a Muslim woman to Congress — actually two: Palestinian American Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, and Somali American Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota.
In her victory speech, Omar’s first words were: “As-salam alaikum” — a standard Muslim greeting that means “peace be upon you” — and then “alhamdulillah,” or “all praise to God.” She will be the first hijab-wearing member of Congress.
Tlaib won Michigan’s 13th Congressional District and Omar won Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, succeeding the first Muslim member of Congress, Keith Ellison, who Tuesday became the state’s attorney general.
The women show a bit of the diversity of Muslims in the United States, one of the country’s most diverse groups. No single racial or ethnic group accounts for a majority among Muslim immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center. Omar is reportedly the first refugee elected to Congress.
Emotion was on high display at Omar’s victory party, where the crowd included women in hijabs dancing and talking policy:
Tlaib is a 42-year-old Detroit native. Her campaign platform included pledges to secure a $15 minimum wage, preventing cuts to welfare programs such as Medicare and Social Security, as well as stopping tax relief to large corporations, according to Al Jazeera.
Omar, who came to the United States at age 14, is also a progressive, and she focused on universal health care and tuition-free colleges.
Both women have served as state lawmakers.
Their victories, which were anticipated, come as President Trump and other GOP figures continue to stoke fear about Islam and immigrants as sources of problems and danger.
Omar and Tlaib are among 100 or more Muslims who ran for office in 2018, an unprecedented surge in political engagement, reported BuzzFeed.
Tlaib is the oldest of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrants and is the second Palestinian American elected to Congress, after Michigan Republican Justin Amash, BuzzFeed reported. The news site said she was criticized by some Palestinian activists for being too engaged with pro-Israel lobbyists and by some left-leaning Jewish activists for her call for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.