Minnesota, Michigan send first Muslim women to US Congress

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Voters watch results at Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar’s election night headquarters in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Novemner 6. (Star Tribune via AP)
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Democratic US congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib points to her 'I voted' sticker after voting during the midterm election in Detroit, Michigan. (Reuters)
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Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar affixes a political button to her coat after she casted her ballot during midterm elections in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Tuesday, November 6. (Reuters)
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Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala won Tuesday in a Miami district that had long been in Republican hands. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Minnesota, Michigan send first Muslim women to US Congress

  • Ilhan Omar campaigned on policies embraced by the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing
  • Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan Legislature in 2008

CHICAGO: Voters in Minnesota and Michigan on Tuesday elected the first two Muslim women to serve in the US Congress, a former refugee who fled Somalia’s civil war and a Detroit-born Palestinian-American.
The victories by the two Democrats — Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — came on an election night when members of multiple minority groups had a chance to score electoral firsts.

In Florida, Lebanese-American Donna Shalala is starting a third career with her election to the House, after serving in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet and running major universities.
In Minnesota, Omar, about 36 and a naturalized American citizen and state representative, follows another trailblazer: She will succeed US Congressman Keith Ellison, who in 2006 became the first Muslim elected to Congress and is stepping down to run for state attorney general.

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The Minneapolis woman campaigned on policies embraced by the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing: universal health care, free college tuition and robust public housing.
“I did not expect to come to the United States and go to school with kids who were worried about food as much as I was worried about it in a refugee camp,” Omar said in an interview last month. She spent four years of her childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya.

Two years ago, she became the first Somali-American to win a seat in a state legislature, on the same night Republican Donald Trump won the presidency after a campaign in which he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.
Omar wsill also be the first Congress member to wear a Muslim hijab, or head scarf.
Tlaib, 42, also has a history of breaking barriers: In 2008 she became the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan Legislature.
The oldest of 14 children, Tlaib was born to a family of Palestinian immigrants in Detroit, where her father worked at a Ford Motor Co. plant.
The former state representative also ran on a liberal platform, backing Medicare for All, immigration reform and a call to overturn Trump’s executive order banning most people from five Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States.
Both women ran in heavily Democratic districts. Minnesota state data showed Omar winning by a large margin, and Michigan media reported that Tlaib had won.
Tlaib linked her campaign to the surge of female political activism in the United States following Trump’s stunning 2016 victory, alluding to the millions of women that took to the streets of Washington and major cities across the country after his inauguration.
“Today, women across the country are on the ballot. Yes, we marched outside the Capitol, but now we get to march into the Capitol,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “We are coming!”

Her relatives are cheering in the West Bank village of Beit Ur Al-Foqa.
Tlaib's uncle, Bassam Tlaib, said on Wednesday that "the family, the village and the region are all proud" of her historic victory.
He says his 42-year-old niece plans to wear traditional Palestinian dress and have a Quran during her swearing-in ceremony. He expects her to "serve the Palestinian cause" in her new role.

The uncle of Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress, shows her picture on a tablet, in Beit Ur Al-Fauqa, in the occupied West Bank. (Reuters)


Rashida Tlaib was born in the US to Palestinian parents. Her mother is originally from the West Bank.
Tlaib ran unopposed in her Michigan district.

Meanwhile, 77-year-old Democrat Shalala won in a Miami district that had long been in Republican hands. Shalala has sought to turn her age into a positive by stressing her experience with this slogan: “Ready on Day One.”
Shalala served as Clinton’s secretary of Health and Human Services for his entire presidency and has made health care a centerpiece of her agenda. She was president of the University of Wisconsin before that, and after Cabinet service she ran the University of Miami until 2015.
After that, Shalala was president of the Clinton Foundation until 2017. She counts the Clintons as close friends; Hillary Clinton campaigned for her this year in Miami.
Asked in a recent interview why she chose to take this fresh path after such a long career, Shalala said: “What I decided in my mind was that I wasn’t finished with public service. I wanted to take a shot.”
Shalala is originally from Cleveland, is of Lebanese descent and has a twin sister. She has lived in the Miami area since 2001.  


Sri Lanka in lockdown after deadly blasts leave scores dead

Updated 26 min 52 sec ago
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Sri Lanka in lockdown after deadly blasts leave scores dead

  • Eight blasts have ripped through churches and hotels
  • Social media blocked across the country in temporary ban

COLOMBO: An eight blasth has been reported in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, as the government announced an immediate curfew.

The curfew will begin on Sunday night at 6:00pm local time (1230 GMT) and run until 6:00am local time (0030 GMT), the Sri Lankan defense ministry said.

The attack took place just hours after a string of bombings ripped through churches and hotels on Sunday monrning, killing at least 160 people.

Access to major social media platforms and messaging services has been shut down by the Sri Lankan government.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the seventh blast hit a hotel in the southern Colombo suburb of Dehiwala, killing two people.

A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Inside St. Anthony's Shrine where one of the bombings took place. (AFP)

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

(Reuters)

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the deadly string of Easter Sunday attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka as “truly appalling.”