by Elton Gomes
Rashida Tlaib was all smiles on Wednesday after emerging victorious in the Michigan primaries. The victory puts Tlaib in a prime position to become the first Muslim woman to be elected in the US Congress.
The 42-year-old former social worker won a Democratic primary in Detroit. In the absence of Republican or third-party candidates, Tlaib is slated to enter the House of Representatives after the midterm elections in November.
“Thank you so much for making this unbelievable moment possible. I am at a loss for words,” Tlaib said in a tweet. “I cannot wait to serve you in Congress,” as per an AFP report.
“When you see a Palestinian person with your name and faith succeed, it shows [the government] can ban us from coming into the country, but not from getting elected,” Tlaib said further. “Showing people it can be done would be a victory to my family,” the Guardian reported.
Tlaib’s victory over five other candidates means that she could well be on her way to become the first Muslim woman in Congress, 12 years after Minnesota’s Keith Ellison became the first Muslim in the House of Representatives.
Pride of West Bank
Tlaib’s victory sparked off celebrations in her home town of Beit Ur al-Fauqa in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Her family is confident that she will take up the Palestinian cause in an administration that seems hostile towards the cause.
“This makes us proud – as the Tlaib family, residents of Beit Ur, as Palestinians, as Arabs and as Muslims, that a simple girl reaches such a position,” her uncle, Bassam Tlaib, said, as per a Reuters report.
“It’s a great honour for this small town. It’s a great honour for the Palestinian people to have Rashida in the Congress,” Mohammed Tlaib, the village’s former mayor and a distant relative, said. “For sure she will serve Palestine, for sure she will serve the interests of her nation. She is deeply rooted here,” as reported by the Associated Press.
From immigrant to American lawmaker
Tlaib, a former state lawmaker, will run unopposed, which puts her in the driving seat to occupy the Congress seat held since 1965 by John Conyers. Conyers stepped down in December 2017 citing health reasons amidst the backdrop of sexual harassment allegations.
The eldest of 14 children born in a family of Palestinian immigrants, Tlaib’s hometown in America is Detroit. Her father is known to have worked at a Ford Motor company plant in the city.
Tlaib served in the Michigan state house from 2009 to 2014, and she was also the first Muslim woman to be elected to the state’s legislature. In the Detroit primary, Tlaib was up against five other candidates, including Brenda Jones, the the Detroit city council president, and Conyers’ great-nephew Ian Conyers. Tlaib has said that her decision to run has been prompted by increasing attacks against American Muslims and immigrants, particularly after Donald Trump came to power.
As a lawmaker, Tlaib aimed to defend Detroit’s poor and took on large companies and a billionaire trucking magnate whom she accused of polluting city neighbourhoods. While campaigning, she criticised the influence of “big money” on politics, in what could be a veiled reference to President Donald Trump. In 2016, Tlaib was one of the 14 protesters evicted for shouting at Donald Trump, while he was speaking about his economic policies. Afterwards, she told the press, “He doesn’t love Detroit. He doesn’t love no one who isn’t Donald Trump.”
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.