Arab and Muslim Americans expand presence after Tuesday’s elections

Special Arab and Muslim Americans expand presence after Tuesday’s elections
Democratic state Sen. Erin Murphy speaks at the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Nov. 9, 2022, after Minnesota Democrats defied expectations in the election. (Report for America via AP)
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Updated 10 November 2022

Arab and Muslim Americans expand presence after Tuesday’s elections

Arab and Muslim Americans expand presence after Tuesday’s elections
  • 145 Muslim Americans were competing in election contests throughout the US and 29 American Muslims serve as state legislators in 18 states

CHICAGO: Republican candidates fell far short of the election sweep that GOP leaders had predicted would occur on Tuesday, but Arab and Muslim Americans increased their election presence in several US states.

Some Arab and Muslim candidates, from California to New Hampshire, faced stiff challenges while a few lost their election bids.

Here is an overview of how Arabs and Muslims performed in election contests in several key American states, based on unofficial results that were released by election authorities or tabulated by major media.

Popular American TV host and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz failed in his bid to become Pennsylvania’s first Muslim-American member of the US Senate when he lost by a narrow margin to Democrat John Fetterman. However, Arab and Muslim candidates in Minnesota, Illinois, Louisiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Florida and California won contests and strengthened their voices.

In Minnesota, Attorney General Keith Ellison held a narrow lead in his re-election bid to retain his title as the nation’s only Muslim attorney general against Republican Jim Schultz. With 95 percent of the votes counted, Ellison clings to a narrow but significant 20,000 vote lead in an election that drew more than 2.5 million votes.

“This election really was tough. Fear, division, the nasty commercials, millions of dollars spent just to sow hate, division and fear. And you know what, we overcame it. The votes are still being counted, but we will win this election,” Ellison told supporters early Wednesday morning, according to the Star Tribune Newspaper.

Ellison’s congressional colleague, US Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American Democrat, easily won re-election over Republican Cicely Davis, carrying 75.2 percent of the state’s votes in the 5th Congressional District.

US Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks to the crowd at the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party's election night party in St. Paul, Minnesota, after winning reelection on Nov. 9, 2022. (AP)

In Illinois, voters elected Palestinian-Muslim Abdelnasser Rashid to represent the 21st Illinois House District with 65 percent of the votes. Rashid is the third Arab to win legislative office in Illinois, following in the footsteps of the late Jewish-Syrian American state representative and Cook County judge Miriam Dweck Balanoff, elected in 1978, and her son Clem Balanoff, elected to the Illinois House in 1993.

Rashid came from behind to defeat seven-term incumbent state representative Michael J. Zalewski in the June 2022 Illinois Democratic primary by only 255 votes in the heavily Democratic district. Zalewski, whose father was an influential former Chicago alderman, was seen as being unbeatable by Democrats, having served in the Illinois General Assembly since 2008.

Rashid told Arab News: “I am humbled and privileged to have the trust of the voters of the 21st District, who are sending me to Springfield to be a voice for working and middle-class families. I am also honored that Arab Americans throughout Illinois will have a voice in Springfield — someone who understands the community and who will fight for them.”

Also winning a seat in the Illinois State General Assembly is Democrat and Indian-American Muslim Nabeela Syed who defeated a Republican challenger, Chris Bos, to represent the 51st Illinois State House District.

Nabeela Syed

Lebanese-American Congressman Darin LaHood, a Republican Christian, won re-election in Illinois to the 16th Congressional District, defeating challenger and Democrat Elizabeth Haderlein with 65 percent of the vote.

“I am committed to continuing to stand up for what people in my district believe in,” LaHood told supporters on election night according to WCBU Radio. “And that’s good conservative values.”

In Louisiana, Republican Congressman Garret Graves, whose mother Cynthia Sliman is a Christian-Lebanese American, won re-election on Tuesday in the 6th Congressional District with 80 percent of the vote, defeating libertarian rival Rufus Craig.

Democrat Sami Scheetz, whose mother Hala is a Syrian-American immigrant, won the election to become Iowa’s first Arab-American state legislator, representing the 78th State House District. Scheetz defeated Republican Anne Fairchild with 67 percent of the votes cast.

In Michigan, it was no surprise that Congresswoman Palestinian Muslim Rashida Tlaib was re-elected to her third term in a landslide, winning 73.7 percent of the votes to represent the new 12th Congressional District over Republican challenger Steven Elliot.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Getty Images/AFP)

Dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans competed for statewide, county and municipal offices in Michigan, although votes in several races continue to be counted.

Democrat Sam Baydoun was re-elected to the 13th Wayne County Commission with 64 percent of the vote over Republican Ann F. Clark.

Lebanese-American Democrat Alabas Farhat won the race for state representative in the 3rd District over Republican Ginger Shearer. Incumbent Democrat and Yemeni-American Abraham Aiyash won re-election to the 9th District State House seat, defeating Republican Michele Lundgren.

Arab-American Dennis Denno, whose parents are from Iraq, won his election to fill a vacant seat on the Michigan State University board of trustees.

In New Hampshire, Republican Lebanese and Palestinian American Governor Chris Sununu won re-election with 55 percent of the vote over Democrat Tom Sherman with 57 percent of the votes cast. His father, John Sununu, previously served as governor and US senator in New Hampshire and also as chief of staff to former president George H.W. Bush.

Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire state is of Lebanese and Palestinian ancestry. (AP)

Arab Americans had mixed results in Florida where Democrat Charlie Crist, who is of Greek and Lebanese descent, lost his bid to unseat Governor Ron DeSantis, one of the country’s most powerful Republicans who is believed to be a possible contender for president in 2024.

Crist lost to DeSantis, receiving 40 percent or 3.1 million of the more than 7.75 million votes cast in the election.

In California, Republican Syrian-Lebanese Christian Darrell Issa easily won re-election in the new 48th Congressional District over Democrat Stephen Houlahan with 60 percent of the votes cast.

And longtime Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who is Assyrian and Armenian, was leading Rishi Kumar in California’s 16th Congressional District with 58 percent of only half of the district’s votes counted by Wednesday morning. Assyrians trace their ancestry to the Ottoman Empire and Iraq. Eshoo has held the seat since 1993.


By Numbers

Muslims, including many Arab Americans, had a much stronger presence in Tuesday’s elections.

According to the Council on American Islamic Relations and Jetpac Resource Center, 145 Muslim Americans were competing in election contests throughout the US and 29 American Muslims serve as state legislators in 18 states.

Five Arab Americans have been elected to the nation’s highest legislative office, as US senators. They include:

  • James Abourezk (Lebanese), representing South Dakota
  • George Mitchell (Lebanese), representing Maine
  • James Abdnor (Lebanese), representing South Dakota
  • Spencer Abraham (Lebanese), representing Michigan
  • John E. Sununu (Lebanese and Palestinian), representing New Hampshire.

Arabs in Congress

There have been 28 Arab or Middle East Americans who have held seats in the US Congress since 1959 when George A. Kasem was first elected to represent California for one term. Six Arab and Middle East Americans continue to serve in the US House of Representatives:

  • Anna Eshoo, California, Assyrian American
  • Darrell Issa, California, Syrian-Lebanese American
  • Garrett Graves, Louisiana, Lebanese
  • Darin LaHood, Illinois, Lebanese
  • Ilhan Omar, Minnesota, Somali
  • Rashida Tlaib, Michigan, Palestinian

Arabs by state population, 2019 *

  • California  324,000
  • Michigan   223,000
  • New York   152,000
  • Texas    124,000
  • Florida   112,000
  • Illinois    111,000
  • New Jersey  108,000
  • Virginia   79,482
  • Ohio    77,096
  • Pennsylvania 75,821
  • Massachusetts 70,683

* (SourcesArab American Institute’s data on

(Note: The US Census does not include “Arab” or “Muslim” as a category but Americans can voluntarily write their ethnicity, origin or religion on their census forms.)

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid — army statement

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid — army statement
Updated 10 sec ago

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid — army statement

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid — army statement
JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed a number of armed fighters during a raid on a refugee camp near the city of Jericho on Monday aimed at capturing suspected Hamas militants, according to a statement from the Israeli military.
It said the targets of the raid were suspected of an attempted attack on a restaurant in the Israeli settlement of Vered Yeriho on Jan. 28.
There was no immediate comment from Palestinian authorities.

Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises

Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises
Updated 14 min 55 sec ago

Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises

Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises
  • At least 76 people in seven Turkish provinces died while 440 people were injured
  • In Syria the death toll climbed to 99 and 334 injured

RIYADH/ANKARA: Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency says the 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed at least 76 people in seven Turkish provinces. The agency said 440 people were injured.
Meanwhile, the death toll in government-held areas of Syria from Monday's quake climbed to 99, according to Syrian state media citing the Health Ministry. In addition, at least 334 people were injured in Syria. Earlier, 20 people were reported killed in rebel-held areas of Syria.
This raises the overall death toll to 195 in Turkey and Syria.
Rescue workers and residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of crushed buildings in multiple cities on both sides of the border. In one quake-struck Turkish city, dozens pulled away chunks of concrete and twisted metal. People on the street shouted up to others inside a partially toppled apartment building, leaning dangerously.
The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of the city of Gaziantep in an area about 90 kilometers from the Syrian border.
On the Syrian side of the border, the quake smashed opposition-held regions that are packed with some 4 million Syrians displaced from other parts of the country by the long civil war. Many of them live in decrepit conditions with little health care. At least 11 were killed in one town, Atmeh, and many more were buried in the rubble, a doctor in the town, Muheeb Qaddour, said.

“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Qaddour said, referring to the rebel-held northwest. “We are under extreme pressure.”
On the Turkish side, the area has several large cities and is home to millions of Syrian refugees.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.

There were at least 6 aftershocks, and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu urged people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks. “Our priority is to bring out people trapped under ruined buildings and to transfer them to hospitals,” he said.
Tallies from various officials put the toll at at least 38 dead in Turkiye and 62 in Syria.
At least 130 buildings tumbled down in Turkiye’s Malatya province, neighboring the epicenter, Gov. Hulusi Sahin said. In the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, at least 15 buildings collapsed. Rescue teams called for silence as they listed for survivors in a toppled 11-story building.
In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The civil defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas. Emergency rooms were full of injured, said Amjad Rass, president of the Syrian American Medical Society.

U.S. President Biden directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess response options to the most affected areas in the Turkiye and Syria earthquake, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday.
The United States is profoundly concerned by the reports of the destructive earthquake, he said.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was centered 18 kilometers deep, and a strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.
Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.
In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear.

The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.
The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
Turkiye sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkiye in 1999.

The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.

Cetizens from as far as Jerusalem and Beirut talked of being awakened by the strong shaking. "I live in Gaziantep, Türkiye.  Was sleeping when it started. Absolutely terrifying," Nasip (@iam_nasib) commented on a video posted on Twitter.

"Felt it in Jerusalem," said Amy di Nardò (@amybellabella).

Sagittarius (@JRsagittarius) said he was in Beirut and the experienced "was terrifying."

Karolingston (@karolingston) of Cyprus said he was awakened because "My bed was shaking."

"Felt it in Lebanon. It was a hell of a feeling!" chimed in CharbelRahmé (@charbelrahm_e)

Turkiye is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

Duzce was one of the regions hit by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 — the worst to hit Turkiye in decades.

That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.

Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people.

And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit the Aegean Sea, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.

(With agencies)

Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
  • Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Western missions would “pay” for issuing security warnings and temporarily closing consulates in Turkiye last week, while police said there was no serious threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Daesh suspects on Sunday.
Ankara summoned the ambassadors of nine countries on Thursday to criticize their decisions to temporarily shut diplomatic missions and issue security alerts. Turkish officials said the following day that Western nations, including the United States and Germany, had not shared information to back up their claims of a security threat.
“The other day our foreign ministry summoned all of them and gave the necessary ultimatum, told them ‘You will pay for this heavily if you keep this up,’” Erdogan said during a meeting with youth that was pre-recorded and broadcast on Sunday.
Alongside the closures, several Western states warned citizens of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship in Turkiye, following a series of far-right protests in Europe in recent weeks that included several incidents of burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an.
Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned.
Erdogan said that the Western states were “playing for (more) time” and that the “necessary decisions” would be taken during Monday’s cabinet meeting, without elaborating.
Earlier on Sunday, police said they had not found evidence of any concrete threat to foreigners in the detentions of 15 Daesh suspects accused of targeting consulates and non-Muslim houses of worship, state media reported.
Anadolu Agency cited an Istanbul police statement saying the suspects had “received instructions for acts targeting consulates of Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Christian and Jewish places of worship.”
While the suspects’ ties to the jihadist group were confirmed, no concrete threats toward foreigners were found, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated on Saturday Turkiye’s frustration with what it says is Sweden’s inaction toward entities that Ankara accuses of terrorist activity. All 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.
Turkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement in June aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, with the Nordic states pledging to take a harder line primarily against local members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.


Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
Updated 05 February 2023

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
  • Calls grow for deeper investigation into motivations and protection of youngsters amid shock and despair

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Security services of the southern Yemeni city of Taiz said that two children committed suicide in two separate events on Saturday, leaving the beleaguered population in shock and despair.

Police in Taiz said in a statement that they were notified of two suicide victims in the city on Saturday evening, citing the deaths as “dangerous precedents.”

Police named the first child as 12-year-old Kareem Abdul Kareem from the Al-Jamhuria neighborhood, who hanged himself inside his room on Saturday afternoon by tying a scarf around his neck.

Ammar Khaled, a 16-year-old who committed suicide on Saturday evening by wrapping a rope around his neck and tying it to a door outside his family’s home, is the second victim. 

After forensic investigators gathered photographs and evidence, his family requested his burial on the same day. 

Police in Taiz pledged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the victims and have asked the community and professionals for assistance in determining the reasons behind the suicides.

In a statement, police urged both authorities and members of the public “to collaborate…in order to provide the appropriate answers.”

Mohammed Alawi, an investigator with police in Taiz, told Arab News that a team, including social and psychiatric professionals, was looking into the cases and would release their findings this week.

Initially, Alawi ruled out the possibility of cyberbullying or even sexual harassment and attributed the deaths of the two children to the mobile game PUBG. 

“These are risky games, and we advise parents to monitor their children’s mobile devices to see what they are seeing or playing,” Alawi said.

He also touched on other instances of suicide, which he blamed on psychological suffering caused by the war.

“Women and children in Yemen, particularly in besieged Taiz, have suffered emotionally because of the war. We had never seen such crimes before the war,” he said.  

On social media, the police statement and photographs of the two deceased children have elicited condolences for the families and calls for an investigation into the motivations behind the suicides and for the protection of children.

“You should investigate with the family about the electronic games they played, such as PUBG, and whether they have Facebook or WhatsApp accounts,” said Adnan Taha on Facebook.

“All communications should be reviewed, since (the children) may be vulnerable to harassment and extortion,” Taha said.

Another social media user, Muneir Al-Qaisi, urged local security agencies not to bury the victims before autopsies are conducted to determine whether they consumed anything poisonous.

“We hope you will not hurry to bury them and (will) examine their bodies,” Al-Qaisi said. 

“It is conceivable that the parents are unaware of beverages or meals being shared among the children,” said Al-Qaisi.

Investigator Alawi responded to accusations of a hasty burial by stating that one of the boys was buried at the request of his family and only after investigators examined both the corpse and the scene.

“He was buried after forensic teams examined the scene, photographed it, and performed investigations. Additionally, his relatives requested burial from the prosecution,” Alawi said.

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
Updated 05 February 2023

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
  • Rachid Karami International Fair has decayed due to conflict, poor maintenance and country’s financial crisis

TRIPOLI: Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crumbling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.
But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recently Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently – and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national program officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architecture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond – but rare – memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions and economic benefits to Tripoli – already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”