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.  


Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing ‘painful’ past

Updated 15 min 58 sec ago
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Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing ‘painful’ past

  • The acting defense secretary cited a 'painful' family situation that would hurt his children
  • Donald Trump said Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief

WASHINGTON: After months of unexplained delays, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down Tuesday before his formal nomination ever went to the Senate, citing a “painful” family situation that would hurt his children and reopen “wounds we have worked years to heal.”
President Donald Trump announced Shanahan’s departure in a tweet, and said that Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief.
“It is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process,” Shanahan said in a statement. “I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.”

The acting defense secretary did not provide specifics about the family situation but media outlets including The Washington Post and USA Today published extensive reports Tuesday about circumstances surrounding his 2011 divorce shortly before Trump tweeted that Shanahan’s nomination would not go forward.
In his statement, Shanahan said he asked to be withdrawn from the nomination process and he resigned from his previous post as deputy defense secretary. He said he would work on an “appropriate transition” but it wasn’t clear how quickly he will leave the job.
Defense officials said that leaders are trying to decide when Esper would take over the job. Officials were meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss transition plans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations.
In his tweet, Trump simply said that Shanahan had done “a wonderful job” but would step aside to “devote more time to his family.”
And, in noting Esper’s move, Trump added, “I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!“
The post atop the Pentagon has not been filled permanently since Gen. James Mattis retired in January following policy differences with Trump.
Trump announced in May that he would nominate Shanahan but the formal nomination process in the Senate had been inexplicably delayed.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since Jan. 1, a highly unusual arrangement for arguably the most sensitive Cabinet position.
His prospects for confirmation have been spotty due in large part to questions about his lengthy work as former Boeing executive and persistent questions about possible conflicts of interest.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General cleared Shanahan of any wrongdoing in connection with accusations he had shown favoritism toward Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary, while disparaging Boeing competitors.
In Shanahan’s tenure at the department he’s had to deal with a wide array of international hotspots, ranging from missile launches by North Korea to the sudden shift of military ships and aircraft to the Middle East to deal with potential threats from Iran.
Shanahan, 56, had extensive of experience in the defense industry but little in government. In more than four months as the acting secretary, he focused on implementing the national defense strategy that was developed during Mattis’ tenure and emphasizes a shift from the resources and tactics required to fight small wars against extremist groups to what Shanahan calls “great power” competition with China and Russia.