Current Events
Melanie's Corner
10 Muslims Running for Public Office in 2017
Current Events
Dec 28, 2017
Alina Din
contributing writer
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Alina Din
contributing writer
If the current presidential administration and other Islamophobes want to keep us out of our country, we have two words for them: move over! We're not going down without a fight, and we have the heroes below to thank. They are acting on Barack Obama's advice in his farewell speech, “If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself!” These inspirational men and women are only a sampling of many others who are running for positions ranging from school boards, city councils, Senate, and even Governorship. Set your sights on the Presidency, people! America is our home, and we're here to make life better for our fellow citizens, much as our Prophet (S) would encourage us to do. 
Here are some inspiring Muslims who ran (or are still running) for office this year! 
1. Mehrunisa Qayyum for Downers Grove Township, Illinois Trustee
Mehrunisa has an impressive background - she has a BA from the University of Chicago and an MPP from Georgetown University. She founded PITAPOLICY (PITA stands for Politics, Impact, Technology, and Analysis of the Middle East & North Africa region), a consulting firm and has worked for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She ran for the Trustee position in April for one of four seats. Her district is a purple one, and she was one of two Democrats vying for the Trustee position. Ultimately, she wasn't able to secure enough votes to win but tells the Atlantic that running was worth it because her opponents still saw her as a formidable threat to the status quo of the governing body.
2. Anisha Ismail Patel for Arlington Heights District 25 School Board (IL)
Patel impressively amassed 50 volunteers to join her campaign staff, and it's easy to see why. She has four young children who attend public schools in the district she ran for and is fully invested and passionate about the district's ability to serve the needs of all students who live there. She's worked as an Assistant Vice Principal, Curriculum Coordinator for the District's Department of Student Learning, adjunct professor, and consultant. Her approach to measuring student success centers around parental input, data-driven assessment strategies, and ensuring cultural relevancy and competency in all measures undertaken to meet the needs of her district's increasingly diverse demographic. Anisha's efforts helped her win the vote by a landslide!
3. Liliana Bakhtiari for Atlanta City Council
Iranian-American Liliana won national recognition for her decision to run for City Council because of having family from one of the countries listed in the Muslim ban - Iran. "I'm running because of housing issues, I chose to run because of affordability issues, and I feel local government can be far more progressive," she tells Buzzfeed News. Bakhtiari ultimately lost by a very narrow margin but felt the run was well worth her efforts. It was heartening for her to hear from other young people who feel inspired to see her on a public platform, because they see a bit of themselves in her, as well. “There is a little girl, and her mom called me the other day and said that her daughter saw my picture and said, ‘Mom she looks like me,’ and I think that's really important to see,” Bakhtiari said.
4. Zainab Baloch for Raleigh City Council
Four days before the 2016 Presidential Election, Zainab's campaign sign got spray painted with the words "Sand N----r" and a swastika beneath it. It was jarring, but an unfortunate reality she had to contend with. "If I can thank Trump for one thing, it’s for motivating a lot of people to run who probably wouldn't have had otherwise.” Although Zainab lost, she plans to run again in the future, saying that the current city council is made up homogeneously of one type of demographic and is in dire need of diversity. Having new faces on the council will make it more representative of the changing face of America, and Zainab hopes to take the lead in making that happen!
5. Bushra Amiwala for Cook County Commissioner (IL)
This remarkable young woman is just 19 years old and is already making a name for herself across the country. She's running against an incumbent who has been commissioner for the past 16 years, and is hoping to bring a fresh perspective and new energy to her local governing board. While she may not have decades of political experience under her belt, her unique background helps her make up for it. This includes her appreciation for socioeconomic divides based on having family in Pakistan, witnessing bigotry faced by Muslim women in her community, and appreciating contrasting viewpoints from her internship for a Republican senator (she's running for her role as a Democrat). She tells Teen Vogue, "If a Muslim person is seen as a leader, seen as empowered, and seen as an inspiration, then we are rewriting some of the predisposed beliefs people hold [about] Muslim people. And even if I do not win the election, that is an outcome I expect to see regardless."
6. Nadeem Mazen for House of Representative for Massachusetts.
Mazen is a 34-year old Cambridge city councilor, an engineer, social entrepreneur, activist, and community organizer. He is the son of an Egyptian immigrant father and midwestern mother and has attended elite schools such as Philips Academy and MIT. He also founded Jetpac, an activist group that breeds young Muslims and other minorities for public office, and Nimblebot, an animation content company. He is focusing his campaign on progressively-oriented causes in a heavily blue district. His contest to unseat a 10-term Democratic incumbent next year is being closely watched, with some saying that even though he's a newcomer challenging a well-respected representative, he shouldn't be underestimated. 
7. Johnny Martin for House of Representative for Arizona
The 24-year old convert running as a Democrat "hopes to work on issues including raising teacher salaries in the state and banning the use of private prisons." He says the Trump administration's attack on LGBTQ and Muslim civil liberties prompted him to get involved in public affairs. Although activism was evolving during the Obama administration, he says, "Now the government has become so dangerous, I really felt it was important to run for office."
8. Fayrouz Saad for House of Representative for Michigan
Within 24 hours of announcing her candidacy, Saad faced so much hate online from trolls looking to exploit her Muslim and Arab roots to stroke Islamophobic fears nationwide. What they neglected to highlight was that Saad has spent a few years working for the Department of Homeland Security to fight terrorism. She has degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. On why she decided to run for office she says, “Now more than ever, change is needed. Now more than ever is the time to have a seat at the table.”
9. Deedra Abboud for Senate in Arizona.
Abboud, a 45-year old lawyer and community activist from Phoenix, stresses that she's not the token "Muslim" candidate in the race, but rather an "American, Democratic, and grassroots candidate who just happens to be Muslim." She's received some boisterous Islamophobic comments since announcing she's running, but it's water off a duck's back to her. “Unfortunately this is actually what we hear on the street; this is what we hear in the media even,” Abboud said. “That’s what we really have to talk about," she tells
10. Abdul El-Sayed for Governor of Michigan
The 32-year old Democratic candidate from Detroit was previously health commissioner for his hometown. He was a practicing physician until he decided to run for public office based on the dire public health crisis faced by Flint and its surrounding areas. He has an incredible track record of fixing his state's broken health systems and hopes to use his operational expertise to fix state government, as well. He's being hailed as 'the next Obama,' but ardently seeks to separate himself from this label. While he appreciates the strides the former president made with regards to bailing out the auto industry and running on a platform of hope and change, he doesn't think Obama was strong enough in regulating big banks, campaign finance reform, or immigration. El-Sayed also feels that Islamophobia gets a little overblown in terms of his religion influencing his politics and has found that the vast majority of people he comes across on the campaign trail "care little about how he prays or who he prays to; they care more about what [he's] praying about."
These Muslims are showing us what it means to be an active citizen of this country. We wish those who are still running the best of luck, and hope to see so many new faces in the political arena this coming year!
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