Election Day for first Muslim women in US Congress

In this Nov. 6, 2008, file photo, Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, is photographed outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich. (AP)
Updated 06 November 2018
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Election Day for first Muslim women in US Congress

  • Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib is running unopposed in her Detroit riding
  • Somali-American Ilhan Omar is the favourite to win in her Minnesota district

DUBAI: The likely election of two Muslim women in Tuesday’s Congressional elections will be a new milestone for the US.
Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib is a Democratic candidate who is running unopposed in her Detroit-area riding, while Somali-American Ilhan Omar is a former refugee who won the Democratic primary in her left-leaning Minnesota district.
Previously, the only Muslim member of the US Congress has been Keith Ellison, who has served since 2007.
However, political analysts say the two women will have different priorities.
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be of importance to one and the Somali issue to the other, but they clearly won’t be spokeswomen for governments in the region,” said Mark Katz, professor of government and politics at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
But for Muslims in the US, it will be an important step. “Muslims are part of society — many people in the US don’t think that — but the fact that they’re going to be there and be part of the system is important, and it makes a huge difference in how various issues are portrayed.”
Katz said that when African-Americans first entered Congress, they were able to speak about the suffering their communities had experienced in ways other people tended not to think about. “So it makes a huge difference for the conversation to even have as a very small number,” he said.
“Having women, in particular, is important. It will be hard to ignore them when they talk about some of these issues”
Given the US role in the world, many say it is crucial that Congress becomes more diverse, better reflecting the diversity of the US population.
“Arabs and Muslims are both misrepresented and under-represented in US politics,” said Safwan Amin, an Iraqi lawyer who recently relocated to Dubai from the US, where he was a fellow at Harvard University.
“It’s about time this was corrected. It also helps change some of the misconception about Arab and Muslim women specifically.”
Amin suggested that if the outcome inspires and encourages Arab and Muslim Americans to become more active in public life, that could eventually have an impact on the region in the long run.

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Israel clears Palestinians from Jerusalem home claimed by settlers

Updated 17 February 2019
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Israel clears Palestinians from Jerusalem home claimed by settlers

  • Residents of the neighborhood in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem scuffled with police, who stood guard as about a dozen Israeli settlers took possession of the large building

JERUSALEM: Israeli police on Sunday evicted a Palestinian family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, after the supreme court ruled Jewish claimants were the rightful owners.
An AFP photographer said residents of the neighborhood in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem scuffled with police, who stood guard as about a dozen Israeli settlers took possession of the large building.
A police spokesman said two people were detained.
“They disturbed police activities,” he told AFP but could not say if they were subsequently released.
Rania Abu Asab, who lived in the house with her husband, their children and his aunt, stood weeping outside as the settlers raised the Israeli flag on the roof.
“We live there, it’s my house, it’s my whole life,” she said. “They took everything.”
She said the family was compelled to leave behind all its furniture and belongings.
Ir Amim, an Israeli watchdog group which monitors settlement activity in Jerusalem, reported on February 3 that the Abu Asab family had been served an eviction notice ordering them to vacate the property by February 12.
It said family members had lived there since the 1960s.
Israeli NGO Peace Now said the home originally belonged to a Jewish family which fled during the 1948 war which accompanied Israel’s foundation.
East Jerusalem was occupied during that conflict by Jordan until the 1967 Six-Day War, when it was seized by Israel and subsequently annexed, moves never recognized by the international community.
The Abu Asab family lived until 1948 in a neighborhood it fled before eventually moving to the home in question.
Peace Now said in a statement Sunday that under an Israeli law passed in 1950 Palestinians cannot return to homes they fled in 1948.
A 1970 act, however, decreed that property in east Jerusalem abandoned by Jewish owners could be reclaimed.
“The court granted the settlers the house and the Abu Asab family became refugees for the second time,” Peace Now said.