American Arabs and Muslims Make History in U.S. Local Elections

Here’s How Media Reacted to Their Victory
Shahana Hanif, the first Bangladeshi American and American Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council.
Bill Bazzi, the Lebanese American Muslim Dearborn Heights Mayor.
Abdullah Hammoud, the first Lebanese American Muslim elected mayor of Dearborn, Michigan.

The New York Times wrote about “the first Muslim woman elected to the [New York City] Council in its history, despite the fact that the city is home to an estimated 769,000 Muslims.” The Detroit News wrote that “in a historic victory, a 31-year-old state legislator born to immigrants from Lebanon, defeated a 66-year-old veteran politician.”  Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) talked about “mayors who are both Muslim and Arab American winning historic local elections.”

Recent local US elections at different levels of government saw a slow but increasingly important and promising series of nominations and winnings by American Arabs and Muslims. Robert McCaw, Government Affairs Director at the Council of American Islamic Council (CAIR), the largest Muslim lobbying and advocacy group in the US, congratulated “… American Muslim mayors, city council and school board members for winning historic victories and exemplifying our community’s commitment to public service.”

He added: “We hope that American Muslims whose policies reflect the justice-oriented values and principles of our community will continue making history across our nation. This is what America looks like, this is diversity in public service, and exemplifies the trust Americans are placing in Muslim candidates running for office.”

The New York Times wrote: “In New York City, a global beacon that draws a diverse population from all over the world, the City Council has never had a person of South Asian descent — or a Muslim woman — among its membership. That changed on Tuesday, when Shahana Hanif, a former City Council employee, won her election in a Brooklyn district.”

The paper added, “Ms. Hanif, who is Bangladeshi American, was the first Muslim woman elected to the Council in its history, despite the fact that the city is home to an estimated 769,000 Muslims.”

The Detroit News wrote: “In a historic victory, a 31-year-old state legislator born to immigrants from Lebanon defeated a 66-year-old veteran politician to become the first mayor of Arab descent of Dearborn, a city long known for its sizable population with roots in the Middle East.”

Taking the stage at a community center named after one of the founders of the Islamic Center of America, state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, declared: "There is a new era in Dearborn."

The PBS announced: “Voters in three Detroit suburbs chose, for the first time, mayors who are both Muslim and Arab American in historic local elections on Tuesday, marking a shift in political power to a region that has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the U.S.”

These are some of the winners, as described by CAIR:

Lebanese American Muslim Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi who fended off a challenge to continue being mayor;  Abdullah Hammoud, first Lebanese American Muslim elected mayor of Dearborn, Michigan; Tania Fernandes Anderson, first Cape Verdean American immigrant and American Muslim elected to the Boston City Council, Massachusetts;  Etel Haxhiaj, first Albanian American refugee and American Muslim elected to the Worcester City Council, Massachusetts;  Amer Ghalib, first Yemeni American immigrant and American Muslim elected to mayor of Hamtramck, Michigan;  Azrin Awal, first Bangladeshi American immigrant and American Muslim elected to the Duluth City Council, Minnesota;  Shama Haider, first Pakistani American and American Muslim elected to the New Jersey State legislature;  Umar Muhammad, first Pakistani American and American Muslim elected to the Galloway Township Council, New Jersey; Shahana Hanif, first Bangladeshi American and American Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council, New York;  Amira Muflahi, first Yemeni American and American Muslim woman to be elected to the Lackawanna City Council, New York;  Dr. Mariam Mahmud, first Pakistani American and American Muslim elected to the Central Bucks School Board, Region 5, Bucks County, Pennsylvania; and, Taiba Sultana, first Pakistani American immigrant and American Muslim elected to the Easton City Council, Pennsylvania.

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