Since March the global pandemic has forced us to find new norms for voting during the primaries and upcoming general election for local elected officials and the presidency. Despite absentee ballots getting lost in the backlogged mail system and the chaos of determining whether to vote in person or not, many Muslim Americans are determined to vote. More Muslim American candidates ran for office
in this election year since 9/11, says organizations like Jetpac, CAIR and Emgage*, which track the number of Muslims seeking an elected seat and according to the Associated Press.
With the global pandemic and a presidential election year, we anticipate Islamophobic rhetoric to continue. Haute Hijab began the #ThisIsWhatAmericaLooksLike campaign last spring to challenge bigotry, racism and xenophobia. The COVID-19 global pandemic derailed our (and everyone’s) work for months. But with the presidential election less than a month a way, we want to bring your focus back to amazing Muslim women who took a stand in this election year
(and since Trump took office) and ran for (or are running for) state, county or local government offices. This list includes those who are working hard to win their election, already won their elections or may have lost, because the hard work to get elected deserves recognition too.
From school boards to congressional seats, here are 13 Muslim women from around who are trying to make a difference in their communities.
We also know there have been way more than 13! Let us know who we have missed!
1. Nida Allam – Durham County Commissioner
2. Zahra Suratwala – DuPage County Board in District 1
Writer, author and co-founder of the “I Speak for Myself” series, Zahra Suratwala
knows what it means to have your own voice as a Muslim. Zahra is taking a second chance at running for the Democratic seat on the DuPage County Board, representing District 1 in Illinois. She fell short of votes in 2018
but is running again in the November 2020 elections. Zahra serves as an English professor at Elgin Community College. She provided cross-cultural training with the U.S. Department of State in Thailand and Cambodia. The mother of two said she ran for office after hearing President Barack Obama’s farewell speech, and to set an example for her kids. She told the Atlantic
, “The flippancy with which he said ‘run for office’ planted a seed in my mind.”
3. Safiya Khalid – Lewiston City Council
4. Nadia Mohamed – St. Louis Park Council
5. Ghazala Hashmi – Virginia State Senator - District 10
Before becoming Virginia’s first Muslim state senator in the Virginia General Assembly, Ghazala Hashmi
taught literature and was a community college administrator. After President Trump announced the 2017 travel ban, Ghazala reflected on her place in the United States and her rights as an American. She was born in India and came to the states when she was four, which as an adult caused her to ponder on what was “home” to her when the Muslim Ban was enacted and the rhetoric of telling Muslims and others to “go home” increased. This inspired Ghazala to run for office. One of the most compelling moments in her campaign was her slogan, “Ghazala Hashmi is an American Name.” Ghazala replaced a Republican incumbent
, helping to switch the General Assembly to Democratic control.
6. Mehreen Butt – Wakefield Town Council
7. Afroz Khan – Newburyport City Council
An engineer by trade, Afroz Khan
is the Councillor at Large in Newburyport, Mass. Afroz actively engages her community by putting together community forums for residents. Afroz became the first Muslim woman to serve Newburyport’s City Council in 2017. Last year she shed a light on Ramadan
for her neighbors and community as part of the city’s Human Rights Commission-sponsored community iftar, in conjunction with a “Ask A Muslim Anything.” She is currently serving her second term starting 2019.
8. Sumbul Siddiqui – Cambridge City Council Mayor
9. Jamillah Beasley – Irvington Municipal Council
Politics and making a difference in people’s lives is something Jamillah Beasley grew up with, watching her father, D. Bilal Beasley, exemplifying and shadowing his work. She followed in his footsteps, serving in public office for more than 20 years
in various roles and was first elected to office in 2008 as the District Leader for the West Ward, 2nd District. In April 2019, Jamillah was elected to serve on the South Ward Council Member
for the Irvington Municipal Council, where she sits on the Housing & Redevelopment, Recreation and Sanitation/Quality of Life council committees. She believes in improving the quality of people’s lives.
10. Zahra Roach – Pasco City Council
A teacher by trade, Zahra Roach has been living in Pasco, Washington for 30 years and taught for five years. She won a city council seat in November of 2019. She’s an executive board member of the Eastern Washington’s Children's Developmental Center
, which provides therapy and support for children born with developmental delays. Prior to her city council role, she was the chair of the Pasco Planning Commission,
where she served for eight years,and is known for bringing people together.
11. Varisha Khan – Redmond City Council
That every vote counts is an understatement for Varisha Khan’s win for a seat at the Redmond City Council in Washington. The 24-year-old narrowly beat Hank Myers, a three-term incumbent. Khan is one of two of the first Muslim women
to be elected in Washington to public office. Khan said she received flack for being too young, a hijabi, and was asked questions about whether she’d bring Shariah law to Redmond while door-to-door campaigning. Naturally, she was criticized by conservative media
. She represents a district with over 67,000 residents - half people of color and 40 percent immigrants
. Varisha has a background in journalism and political science
12. Bushra Amiwala – Skokie School District
Bushra Amiwala is the first and “youngest Muslim” and Pakistani American woman to run for a Cook County commissioner seat in Chicago as a 19-year-old in 2017. While she didn’t win her commissioner seat, she and 250 volunteers registered 2,000 people to vote
- 30 percent of them first time voters. She garnered national attention
as the first elected Muslim woman to the Skokie School District 73.5 in April 2020. She was one of the Glamour Magazine College Women of the Year
in 2018. In a TedTalk
, Bushra says she learned to be confident despite being written about more for her fashion, gender and identity as a Muslim Pakistani American woman rather than her policies in education, hunger and homelessness. She said while campaigning, she learned she was one of the only Muslims some people had ever met.
13. Saima Khalil – Macomb County Prosecutor
Attorney Saima Khalil grew up in Warren, Mich. The staff attorney for Lakeshore Legal Aid serves low income families in Macomb County, such as senior citizens, domestic violence and underserved communities. Khalil previously worked for her private practice. She serves as a director with the Michigan County Bar Association. In August of 2020, she ran against seven others
in the primaries for a four-year term, garnering more than 15,000 votes, the third highest votes. The first generation Pakistani American is the first Muslim woman to run for county prosecutor in Michigan to “represent all of the voices in Macomb County
.” She hopes to incorporate mental health into the legal system. She said the prosecutor’s office should do more
to help low income families who are disadvantaged and often derailed by the legal system. While Saima garnered 15,456 votes (17.2 percent of the votes) she unfortunately lost to Mary A. Chrzanowki, who had 34.6 percent of the votes.
These women have displayed their commitment to bettering communities and working for the betterment of American communities in the public sector. Muslim women are claiming spaces that have often left them out of the public discourse. With the Muslim Bans and anti-Muslim rhetoric in the public sphere, these women are changing the game and creating new ways to give back, speak for themselves and uplift their communities.
, a national civil rights organization for Muslims, and MPower Change, put out this list
of people who ran or won elected seats in November 2019.
2. Emgage, a nonprofit which aims to educate and empower Muslim voters, posted this list