MIDTERMS SPECIAL MUISLIM CANDIDATES

DETROIT, MICHIGAN ((SUGGESTED ANCHOR INTRO))

Americans are about to hold a national election to determine control of the US Congress for the next two years. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are at stake, along with one-third of the 100 member U.S. Senate. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of Congress. If Democrats can win a majority in either chamber, it would become more difficult for President Donald Trump and his Republican party to pass their conservative legislative agenda.

It is likely that the next Congress will shatter records for diversity. For the first time, white men are no longer the majority among the Democratic Party’s slate of candidates for the House of Representatives. The number of women candidates is up 44-percent and the number of women of color is up 75 percent from 2012.

That includes two women positioned to make history. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Detroit, Michigan on the campaigns to send a Muslim woman to Congress.

((NARRATOR))

Ahlam Jbara lives in Chicago, Illinois – six hours away from Detroit Michigan – which means she can’t vote in the state’s primary election.

But the race for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District was too important, and personal, for Jbara to miss. Which is why she drove the six hours to volunteer in Rashida Tlaib’s campaign on election day.

((AHLAM JBARA, CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER))

As a Muslim American, as an Arab American, as a Palestinian American I’m her, she’s me.

((NARRATOR))

Though it’s an election in Michigan, Tlaib’s campaign for Congress has historic, nationwide implications, particularly for Muslim American women, who view Tlaib’s candidacy as a door opening.

((RASHIDA TLAIB, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE))

Just getting text messages from young girls, just got one from New York, like Hi you don’t know me, but my name is Homa, and I just want you to know I’m watching this in New York. It makes me emotional just thinking Oh my god, this is so wonderful.

((AHLAM JBARA, CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER))

Rashida is a woman who cares about people at the grassroots level … she’s turning out first-time voters, not just youth, but others who are first-time voters who’ve been American citizens for a long time, even those who are born here but have never voted before because they didn’t have faith in our government.

((NARRATOR))

Those voters made the difference for Tlaib, something she and her supporters only realized after a long wait into the morning for results of a contest that until the end, was a close race.

((NATURAL SOUND))

If Detroit’s website is to be believed, we’ve won this race.”

((LOUD CHEERING))

((RASHIDA TLAIB, DEMOCRAT CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE)

I want to thank my Mom, who is from the West Bank, they are literally glued � it’s like 5:00 in the morning and now it’s more than that � they are glued to the TV my grandmother my aunts and uncles in Palestine are sitting by (sobbing) and watching their granddaughter win this election.

((ALVIN TILLERY, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DIVERSITY AND DEMOCRACY))

“This is the quintessentially American story. It’s the story of Irish immigrants, and Italian immigrants, Polish immigrants, it’s just playing out with different religion and ethnicities and that’s what America is supposed to be about.”

((NARRATOR))

Alvin Tillery of Northwestern University says Tlaib, and Ilan Omar, who is running for Congress in Minnesota, will face a larger set of expectations because of the historic change they represent in a role Muslim American women have never been seen before.

((AHLAM JBARA, CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER))

They feel like Rashida is them. Rashida is going to be their face, their voice in Congress. And Rashida being in Congress is like, we’re American just like you are.

((NARRATOR))

Kane Farabaugh, VOA News, Detroit, Michigan

((SUGGESTED ANCHOR TAG))

Right now, Muslims comprise a bit more than one percent of the U.S. population. However, Pew Research projects Muslims will grow to be the 2nd largest religious group in the U.S. by 2040. Both Rashida Tlaib (pronounced tuh-LEEB) in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota are running against little or no opposition in their districts, which already were multi-cultural and liberal in their composition. Two Muslim men have served in Congress, Andre Carson from Indiana and Keith Ellison from Minnesota.

Source: Voice of America