US Muslims Make Big Gains in Elections Despite Trump Attacks05 Nov 2020
After much build-up and anticipation, the US Presidential elections finally took place on Tuesday.
With the coronavirus ravaging the US; a President who made ungrounded claims of vote theft; far-right militias threatening violence; and very real fears that widespread disorder and even civil war could break out, the elections took place during a period of instability and polarisation that is unprecedented in modern memory.
Given how big a surprise Trump’s election in 2016 was, there were plenty and understandable reasons to not get too optimistic about a Biden win. Indeed, for much of the vote count, the numbers between Biden and Trump were tantalisingly close.
However, as the vote count nears its conclusion and more and more states are announcing results, it is becoming clear that Muslim politicians in the US have made unprecedented gains.
In particular, the Somali-American community has seen its sole representative, Ilhan Omar, retain her seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She will be joined with other Somali Hodan Hassan and Mohamud Noor, two first-time winners. Another winner from the Somalian community was Omar Fateh who became the first Somali-American in Minnesota to be elected to Senate.
Gains were also made by the Palestinian-American community who saw not only the election of Rashida Tlaib to the Michigan House of Representatives but also saw the election of Iman Jodeh to the Colorado House of Representatives.
Big Wins for the Somali-American Community in Minnesota
Among the communities that made significant gains in the elections is the Somali-American community in the state of Minnesota. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American to be elected into the Minnesota House of Representatives, has retained her seat.
Furthermore, two other Somali-Americans were elected into the Minnesota House of Representatives: Hodan Hassan and Mohamud Noor.
Noor, in particular, has been active within the local Somali community and was focused on investments in green economy, healthcare issues and school funding. Running on a progressive platform despite the conservative bent of his constituency, Noor has nevertheless managed to win the seat he ran for.
Similarly, Hodan Hassan ran on a number of progressive platforms including LGBT+ rights, universal single-payer health care, affordable housing and racial justice. She called for affordability subsidies and increased educational resources for local communities.
Omar Fateh, who is the first Somali-American to be elected to the Minnesota Senate, was similarly vocal about the issues local communities face. “The residents in my district don’t have the luxury of incremental change” said Fateh who was backed by Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialists of America. His campaign headquarters were near the heart of the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd and he says that he interacted with the protesters regularly.
Indeed, Minnesota, with one of the largest numbers of African diaspora communities, saw several other seats won by African-Americans.
Jodeh Will Be the Second Palestinian-American Congresswoman
The election also gave a cause for optimism for the Palestinian-American community which has faced repeated crises due to President Trump’s increasing support for Israeli policies regarding to Palestine.
The election saw the first Palestinian-American and the first Muslim woman to be elected to congress, Rashida Tlaib, retain her seat in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.
First as she was, Tlaib will no longer be the only Palestinian-American lawmaker following the election of Iman Jodeh to the Colorado House of Representatives. Vocal about her background and activism, Iman will also become the first Muslim state legislator in the history of Colorado.
A Silver Lining in a Bleak Election
The election of lawmakers belonging to so many minority communities including Muslim communities, highlights that the attacks by Trump and the wider Republican Party have not dampened the spirits of his opposition and may have, instead, galvanised them.
Indeed, both Omar and Tlaib have a history of personal antagonism with Trump, having been frequently attacked by him and his supporters for being foreigners disloyal to the US. Similarly, in the lead-up to the election, Jodeh was painted by far-right linked outlets as a secret Islamist extremist despite running on a platform that advocated, among other progressive causes, LGBT+ health and issues.
As we stand at a point where communities in the US are being pitted against each-other by Trump, the election of politicians belonging to minority communities could help put a united front against such provocation. This is especially important, given that Trump will likely fall back on his far-right support regardless of the outcome of the election.
More than anything else, these results show that there is still room for hope and progress despite a very bleak election.