RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Michigan's first Muslim woman state lawmaker

WASHINGTON — Rashida Tlaib, 32, has made history by grabbing a seat in the Michigan legislature, becoming the first Muslim woman ever to serve in the state legislature.
"Allah had chosen me for this job which I did not know before," Tlaib, the eldest daughter of Palestinian immigrant parents, told in an exclusive interview.
Tlaib, a lawyer and community activist who had never thought of coming into politics, easily won a seat in Michigan House of representatives on November 4, the day of the historic White House elections. She defeated her Republican opponent by a 9 to 1 margin in her southwest Detroit district, largely populated by blacks and Hispanics.
"My parents had taught me the importance of hard work, honesty and commitment. And those values today paid me in the form of being electing to the prestigious position of Michigan State Legislature, representing a diverse community of Latino, African American and Arabs," Tlaib said proudly.
Born in Michigan, she is the eldest of her 13 siblings of Palestinian parents who migrated to the US in the early 1970s. Her father was born in Beit Hanina, a suburb of Al-Quds, while her mother was raised in Beit Ur El Foka, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"I had to take care of all of younger brothers and sisters because I was the first in my family to have earned a high school degree," she recalls.
"It was a tough task to continue my studies while working full-time."
She also feels indebted to outgoing Democratic Rep. Steve Tobocman, the majority floor leader.
"I would have never been here today, if my Jewish boss and predecessor Steve Tobocman had not encouraged me to venture into politics," he said.
"I got my inspiration from Tobocman who insisted that I must take part in the elections."
Tobocman had recruited Tlaib years ago to serve as part of his House staff in recognition of her passion for social justice and ability to work with people across the political aisle. He encouraged her to run for his seat because he could not couldn't seek re-election over term limits.
• Myths
Tlaib, who earned her political science bachelor degree in 1998 and law degree in 2004, believes her election to the State Legislature debunks many myths.
"There was a lot of propaganda against me in some of the local press that she is a Muslim extremist and that her election to the state legislature will send negative signals and that she will work only for the rights of Muslim community," she remembers.
"But I didn't care and never attacked any of my seven opponents. I just kept working work. I campaigned door-to-door, and I think it was my aggressive door-knocking campaign of around 8000 families that paid me back a lot."
Tlaib said the voters were interested in her commitment for the social service and not to her religious or ethnic background.
"There were only 2 percent Arab Muslims in my constituency. Majority of the voters were Latino who made 40 percent and African Americans who were 25 percent," she explained.
"But ninety percent of them voted me, which is a great signal of optimism for American Muslims.
"If any Muslim or even a woman want to achieve something, she needs only a hard work and honesty."
According to the American Muslim Alliance, only nine Muslims were serving in state legislatures nationwide before Tuesday's elections. Tlaib insists that as a Democratic Representative for Michigan State Legislature, she will be pursuing policy change in the larger interest of the community.
"As a lawyer and social activist, I was already working for social justice, immigrant and civil rights for people in the Southwest Detroit."
She used to provide social and advocacy services to thousands of Southwest Detroit families through the Latin Americans for Social & Economic Development (LASED), the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS), the International Institute of Metro Detroit and the Neighborhood Tax Center.
• Proud Muslim
Tlaib is a mother of three-year-old Adam.
Though she is living happily with her husband Fayez, she is still taking care of some of her siblings, providing them proper education and guidance.
"Though I don't wear hijab but I am a practicing Muslim, performing five times prayers daily and will be carrying along my prayer rug to my office in Lansing," she told IOL referring to the headquarters of the Michigan legislature.
"I am sure wearing hijab or following Islam is not an obstacle here in achieving one's goals, provided there is commitment and persistent efforts," she said emphatically.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tlaib had to struggle hard for the rights of immigrant families in her community especially Arab Muslims. But finally she succeeded in getting back their civil liberties and restoring their image and confidence.
In 2007, Tlaib was selected as fellow by Michigan Center for Progressive Leadership in recognition of her leadership skills.
"Like many other immigrant Americans, my family too had an American Dream, and today it got materialized," she told IOL.
"I fee myself fortunate enough to serve the community where I grew up and which shaped me in a Muslim representative woman that I am today."
Source : Islam Online

No comments: