Farmington–November 19–The 2008 elections brought several new Muslim faces to elected office, and confirmed several others in offices they had won before. The most notable Muslims in our political landscape are US Representatives Andre Carson and Keith Ellison. As of this writing it appears unlikely that President-elect Obama will choose any Muslims for his cabinet, although that would be a wise move as a show of goodwill for building peace in the Middle East. We have collected Muslim names from the federal, state, and local and county levels, and have collected some names that do not sound Muslim but that belong to Muslims. If you know of additional Muslim elected officials, please let us know by writing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congressman Keith Ellison represents the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota in the United States House of Representatives since taking office on January 4, 2007.
The Fifth Congressional District is the most vibrant and ethnically diverse Congressional district in Minnesota with over eighty languages spoken throughout the district that includes the City of Minneapolis and several surrounding suburbs.
There could be no better fit for such a diverse district than Keith Ellison who has committed his public life to community organization and advocacy. Keithâ€™s adult life has been spent bringing communities together â€“ whether it is advocating for a better business climate or giving a voice to those who deserve to be heard. His philosophy is one of generosity and inclusiveness â€“ because there are enough resources in our communities for everyone to prosper.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Congressman Ellison graduated from Wayne State University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He moved to Minnesota in 1987 to attend the University of Minnesota Law School where he earned his law degree in 1990. He and his wife, Kim a high school math teacher, have since made Minnesota their home where they are raising their four children.
Upon completion of his Juris Doctor, Congressman Ellison practiced law from 1990 to 2006 in both the private sector and as executive director of the Legal Rights Center. In 2004 he ran for the State Legislature from Legislative District 58B in North Minneapolis. He became a strong advocate to protect Minnesota children from dangerous pesticides and chemicals; promoted legislation to restore the voting rights of ex-offenders; and successfully advocated for an increase to the stateâ€™s minimum wage.
When long-serving 5th District Congressman Martin Sabo announced his retirement after 28 years in Congress, Ellison jumped into the race. He quickly established himself as a formidable candidate by winning a 1st ballot DFL party endorsement in a multi-candidate field of former and current office holders.
He was challenged in the DFL primary by six candidates, and won by ten percentage points. Congressman Ellison won the general election with 56% of the vote in a four-way race.
Ellison serves on the House Financial Services Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee. Both committees serve his legislative priorities well. Mr. Ellisonâ€™s legislative priorities are promoting peace, prosperity for working families, environmental sustainability, and civil and human rights.
Ellisonâ€™s election to the Congress made both Minnesota and U.S. history.
Keith is the first African American elected to the Congress from Minnesota, as well as the first Muslim American to be elected to the U.S. Congress.
Congressman Carson currently serves on the prestigious Financial Services Committee, which oversees all components of the nationâ€™s housing and financial services sectors including banking, insurance, real estate, public and assisted housing, and securities. Congressman Carson will use his position on the committee and as a representative in the House of Representatives to fight for the needs of the Indianaâ€™s 7th Congressional District. His ambitious agenda includes working to create economic opportunity for Hoosiers, pushing forward comprehensive affordable healthcare legislation, working to responsibly bring an end to the war in Iraq and to restore Americaâ€™s role as a respected global leader.
He is married to Mariama Carson, an award winning professional educator in the Pike Township Schools. They are the proud parents of a one year-old daughter, Salimah, and have lived in the Fall Creek Place neighborhood for five years.
Muslim State Legislators
Larry Shaw, North Carolina Senate
Larry Shaw is a U.S. Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing the stateâ€™s twenty-first Senate district, including constituents in Cumberland County. A corporate executive from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Shaw is currently serving in his sixth term in the state Senate. Previously, he served one term in the state House. Shaw was the highest-ranking Muslim elected official in the United States until the election of Keith Ellison to represent Minnesotaâ€™s 5th congressional district. As of 2006, State Del. Saqib Ali (D-MD) and State Rep. Saghir â€œSaggyâ€ Tahir (R-New Hampshire) were the only other Muslims to have been elected to state legislatures in the United States. Shaw is however the longest serving Muslim, serving a total of 14 years. He was first elected in to the North Carolina House in 1994.
Larry Shaw also serves on the National Board of Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Saqib Ali, Maryland House of Delegates
â€œI was born on January 21, 1975 in Chicago to a South Asian immigrant family that had arrived in America a few years earlier.
â€œI have lived in Montgomery County since 1991 when I moved here to attend college. I received Bachelors & Masters degrees in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, College Park.
â€œMy wife Susan and I have been married since 1999. As newly-weds we lived in Montgomery Village. Now we live in beautiful and quiet community in West Gaithersburg. We were blessed with the arrival of baby Sofia in May, 2006. My parents, also long-time Montgomery County residents, live nearby. Iâ€™m employed as a Software Engineer.
â€œI have been deeply involved in Montgomery County politics and civic life for years:
â€œI am the first elected President of the District 39 Democratic Club.
â€œI was the Legislative District 39 Co-ordinator for the Howard Dean presidential campaign in 2003 & early 2004.
â€œI worked full-time for Congressman Chris Van Hollenâ€™s General Re-election campaign in 2004.
â€œI was Co-Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Spring Ball in 2004 which raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Montgomery County Democratic Party. I am a passionate community advocate and urge all my friends and neighbors to be actively involved in the affairs of their communities, schools, county, state and federal governments. In my spare time I enjoy playing basketball and bicycling.
Saghir â€œSaggyâ€ Tahir, New Hampshire Assembly
Resident of Manchester for over 30 years
Father of three children – Misbah, Adeel and Sanam Tahir
Married to Nusrat Tahir for 30 years
Three children graduated from Manchester schools.
Favorite games: Soccer, baseball and hockey
Business and Education
President, International Independent consulting firm in roofing and waterproofing for 24 years
B.S. Physics and Mathematics B.S. Civil Engineering
Elected to the State House of Representatives from Ward 2, November, 2000, Re-elected in District 50 (Wards 2, 3, 10 & 11) in November, 2002, re-elected from the new Dist. 9 (Ward 2) in 2004. Re-elected and was top vote-getter in GOP primary, 2006.
Serves as a member of the Public Works and Highways Committee
Chairman City Republican Committee, 2001
2nd Vice Chair, City Republican Committee, 2000
Secretary, City Republican Committee, 1999
Rashida Tlaib, Michigan State Rep-Elect
Rashida Tlaib was raised in Southwest Detroit, the oldest child of immigrants, who taught her the importance of hard work, honesty, and commitment to community. She attended Harms, Bennett Elementary and Phoenix Academy, and became the first in her family to graduate from high school (Southwestern â€˜94). Despite growing up poor and having to care for her 13 younger siblings, Rashida persevered and worked hard to earn her B.A. in Political Science from Wayne State University (1998). She even went on to earn a law degree, while working full-time and attending weekend classes at Thomas Cooley Law School (2004).
Rashida has always been committed to public service and giving back to the community. She provided social and advocacy services to thousands of Southwest Detroit families at Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LASED), the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), the Office of State Representative Steve Tobocman, the International Institute of Metro Detroit, and the Neighborhood Tax Center. Rashidaâ€™s leadership was recognized by Michiganâ€™s Center for Progressive Leadership when they selected her as a fellow in 2007.
Rashida has been married to her husband, Fayez, for 10 years, and is the mother of a beautiful two-year-old son, Adam.
The Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, Board of Directors
Ako Abdul-Samad is the Iowa State Representative from the 66th District. He has served in the Iowa House of Representatives since 2007. Previously, he had been a member of the Des Moines school board.
Abdul-Samad is the founder and CEO of Creative Visions Human Development Institute, a non-profit organization in Des Moines.
Abdul-Samad currently serves on several committees in the Iowa House – the Education committee; the Labor committee; the State Government committee; and the Human Resources committee, where he is vice chair. He also serves on the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.
Abdul-Samad also serves on the Health and Human Services Committee of the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments.
Abdul-Samad was elected in 2006 with 3,459 votes (61%), defeating Republican opponent Jack Whitver, Libertarian opponent Brett Blanchfield, and Independent opponent Jeff Johannsen.
Jamilah Nasheed, Missouri Rep.
District 60, Democrat
Rep. Nasheed, a Democrat, represents part of St. Louis City (District 60) in the Missouri House of Representatives. She was elected to the House in November 2006. Rep. Nasheed is a small business owner in St. Louis City. Rep. Nasheed serves as the Vice-Chairperson Women in the Democratic Caucus and Vice-Chairperson of the Freshman Democratic Caucus. In addition to her legislative duties, Rep. Nasheed is a member of the St. Louis Public Schools Role Model Program, the African American Heritage Society and the Lexington Mentor Program. She is also an active member of the St. Louis Association of Colored Womenâ€™s Club. Rep. Nasheed attended Roosevelt High School in St. Louis. She currently attends Florissant Valley Community College in Florissant, Missouri.
Talibdin El-Amin, Missouri Rep.
District 57, Democrat
Rep. El-Amin, a Democrat, represents part of St. Louis City (District 57) in the Missouri House of Representatives. He was elected to the House in November 2006. Rep. El-Amin works in real estate and previously worked for over 12 years as an assembler at the Hazelwood Ford Motor Plant.
In addition to his legislative duties, Rep. El-Amin is a member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Al-Muminun Islamic Center in St. Louis.
Rep. El-Amin is a 1988 graduate of Pattonville Senior High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri. He will graduate in December 2007 from Harris-Stowe State University with a degree in Urban Education.
Rep. El-Amin was born on December 17, 1970 in St. Louis, Mo, where he currently resides with his wife, Yaphett El-Amin. They have five children: Brooklynn, Mark, Myles, Hasan and Ruqaiyah.
State Representative Rodney R. Hubbard was elected to the House in November 2002. A lifelong Democrat, Rodney represents part of St. Louis City (District 58) in the Missouri House of Representatives and is today one of only two Democratic committee chairs.
Rep. Hubbard has received many accolades including the 2006 Distinguished St. Louis Business Journal Legislative Award; 2005 Associated Industries Cooperative Award; 2005 Lewis & Clark Statesman Award presented by St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association; Loretta Hall Award from the Carr Square TMC; Yes I Can Award; the 2004 Lewis & Clark Statesman Award presented by St. Louis RCGA and the 2004 Certificate of Appreciation presented by the Missouri Assisted Living Association. He is also a member of the Taheed Youth Group, an anti-drug/violence taskforce as well as his membership with the One Hundred Black Men. In addition to Rodney R. Hubbard legislative duties, he serves as Vice President of Midwest Development & Consulting, which targets the revitalization of St. Louis. Upon graduation from Lincoln University, Rodney began his career at his alma mater in Jefferson City, Missouri. He continued working in the public sector with the State of Missouri Office of Administration and the Missouri Department of Social Services. A 1991 graduate of Mehlville High School, Rep. Hubbard earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Lincoln University.
Rep. Hubbard resides in St. Louis City with his wife, Shameem S. Hubbard. He is the proud father of Ayana Amani, Rodney R. Jr., Jabari Ali, and Attallah Azizah. From hubbardforsenate.com; four kids, 3 with Muslim names, one a junior.
Yusuf Salam, Alabama Assembly
Representative Yusuf Salaam was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in November, 2002. He and his wife, Khayriyyah, have five children: Fatima, Rastreeda, Gaaiyya, Safiyyah, and Yusuflibril. He received his A.B. Degree in History from the University of Georgia, Juris Doctor from the University of Miami, and L.L.M. from the University of Wisconsin. Representative Salaam is a member of the Alabama Trial Lawyers, Alabama Bar Association, Alabama Democratic Committee, Dallas County Bar, and Coalition for Good Government.
Local Elected Officials
Nasim Ansari, MI, Kalamazo County Commissioner
â€œI am an old man now–I am 62. Part of the reason I am doing this is so that young people like you will run for office.â€
Ansari won in 2008: his seat has an election every 2 years. Is Kalamazoo County Commissioner (one of 17 commissioners who cover 17 districts); being a commissioner is a part time job. Nasim Ansari is 62 years old and is semi-retired. He just won against attorney Dorphine Payne (D), an attorney, in the 2008 election.
Served as Kalamazoo County Commissioner since January 1, 2003
Environmental Health Advisory Council
Local Emergency Planning Committee
Previously served on Portage City Council, 3 years
Education/Degrees: Masters Degree in Chemistry Masters Degree in Business Administration
Experience: Kalamazoo County Commissioner, Portage City Councilman. Local Emergency Planning Committee, Local government employee. Kalamazoo County Environmental Health Advisory Council, Portage Groundwater Commission. Board of Directors Conventions and Visitorâ€™s Bureau, Local Development Finance Authority, Vice Chair Inter-governmental Cooperation Committee. Aeronautics Board, Appointment Committee, Michigan Works Board.
Community Involvement: President, Kalamazoo Lend a Hand Volunteer; Former member of Portage Lions Club
David Shaheed was first appointed to served as a Marion County Superior Court judge by Governor Frank Oâ€™Bannon in September, 1999. He was elected Superior Court judge in 2002. Prior to this appointment, Shaheed had served as a magistrate in the Marion County Superior Court from May 1996 until being appointed judge in 1999. He was a master commissioner for the two preceding years.
Litigating Police Misconduct Cases, Part I, National Bar Association Convention, Chicago, Illinois. 1994
Litigating Police Misconduct Cases, Part II, National Bar Association Convention, Baltimore, Maryland, 1995
Legal Services to the Indigentâ€”A United States/United Kingdom Comparison, Society of Black Lawyers, London, England, 1992
David (Weeks) Shaheed, grew up in Indianapolis and attended North Central High School. He earned a basketball scholarship and attended the University of Evansville. He was a member of the Purple Aces basketball team throughout his college career.
After college, Shaheed worked for several years in the business sector. Thereafter, he attended Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, earning his J.D. in 1985.
Mayor, Prospect Park, NJ
Editorâ€™s note: Excerpts below from â€œMuslim mayor avoids mixing politics, religionâ€ article by Maya Kremen in January 2007.
Mayor Mohamed Khairullah took office in Prospect Park in January 2007.
Khairullah, then 31, set a precedent by becoming the stateâ€™s first elected Arab-American Muslim mayor. Now heâ€™s all about proving that, like any good politician, a Muslim can serve the public without mixing religion into it.
Deliver the goods to everyone, and then you can exert personal perspective. Itâ€™s a strategy he imparts to other Muslims and Arabs.
But to get to where he is, Khairullah weathered trouble specific to being an Arab Muslim politician after 9/11. He has been called a â€œbetrayerâ€ and had his remarks on the Palestinian situation come back to bite him.
He says, heâ€™s learned to temper public stands on hot topics, especially after seeing Sami Merhi of Clifton, a Lebanese American, dumped by Democrats as a 2006 freeholder candidate. Merhi had reportedly said at a function that he couldnâ€™t see the similarity between Palestinian suicide bombers and the 9/11 hijackers.
â€œFor me and for anyone else of Middle Eastern descent who wants to get into politics, it comes as a learning experience,â€ Khairullah said. â€œPoliticians need to watch what they say — itâ€™s plain and simple.â€ Besides the political fray, there have been personal tough times: his fatherâ€™s death when he was just 20, and raising a young son after divorce. And there, his faith has pulled him through.
An English phrasebook
Khairullahâ€™s family came to town after living in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Queens. He was 16, and he worked hard at assimilating, always carrying an English phrasebook. After his father, a body shop owner, died of a heart attack, the family struggled. But, borrowing money from an uncle, Khairullah managed to go to William Paterson University.
By then, he already knew he was destined for politics. His epiphany had come as a highschooler when he saw a council campaign sign for Khalil Kasht. Khairullah recognized the name as Muslim and thought, â€œIf he could do it, maybe I could.â€
That seemed especially possible in Prospect Park.
Itâ€™s Passaic Countyâ€™s smallest town, but its residents include Hispanics, African-Americans, Turks, Albanians, Arab-Americans, Circassians, and the descendants of Dutch settlers. Itâ€™s a place where the supermarket signs say â€œHalal Meatâ€ and â€œSe Habla Espanol.â€
Khairullah, a Democrat, showed early political savvy in his election to council. As a volunteer firefighter, he had gotten fire department support by pledging to deliver on new radios.
As councilman, he allied with Mayor William Kubofcik.
â€œThe political game has a lot to do with loyalty,â€ Kubofcik says. â€œThere were times things needed to be done, and he stayed the course with my agenda.â€
When Kubofcik left town in 2005, Khairullah was appointed his successor.
Since then, Khairullah has tried to balance ethnic concerns. He has attended Latino Police Organization events, and hired the first African-American police officer. He helps Arabic-speakers with immigration problems.
Khairullah said his best moment in public life wasnâ€™t becoming the first Arab-Muslim mayor. It was presiding over the boroughâ€™s first Christmas lighting last year.
Mayor, Irvington, NJ
Biographical Sketch of Wayne Smith, Mayor
Promoting an aggressive agenda for the rebirth of the Township of Irvington, Wayne Smith was elected as the 20th mayor of the municipality in May 2002. His entire slate of council candidatesâ€”known as Team Irvingtonâ€”was also elected, sealing the mandate for his leadership.
Mayor Smithâ€™s tenure has been characterized by bold, innovative leadership that has yielded significant progress for the Township of Irvington. His most noted accomplishments are: initiating the formation of the Anti-Crime Partnership that includes the NJ State Police, local, county and federal agencies; securing the $4.4 million agreement to rebuild the Irvington Bus Terminal, which opened in April 2005; demolishing dozens of dilapidated, abandoned properties to pave the way for redevelopment; and drastically increasing code enforcement that has resulted in about $1.5 million in fines of neglectful property owners. His outstanding stewardship has not only delivered tangible results but high hopes for the future revitalization of Irvington.
In a nod to his undeniable popularity and the affirmation of the advancement of the Township of Irvington, Mayor Smith ran unopposed for a second term in May 2006 and assumed office in July 2006. He is the first chief executive of Irvington to accomplish the feat since Mayor Robert H. Miller in 1978. In November 2006, Mayor Smith was installed as the president and chairman of the 24-member NJ Urban Mayorsâ€™ Association.
Mayor Smith has been an active, prominent member of Irvingtonâ€™s civic, political and social sectors throughout his 20 plus-year residency in the township. During this time, he has crafted key alliances with all levels of government, in addition to private enterprise. This ability to build consensus helped propel him to victory in 1996 as an Irvington Council Member At-Large. He was resoundingly re-elected two years later, and at that time, unanimously chosen by his colleagues to serve as president of the seven-member legislative body.
During his political and civic careers, Mayor Smith has been covered by The Star-Ledger, WCBS-TV, WNBC-TV, WWOR-TV, News Channel 12 and other media outlets. In addition, his efforts have been rewarded with awards and honors from numerous organizations. His greatest reward, however, comes from the heartfelt commitment made every day to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the Township of Irvington.
Mayor Wayne Smith was directly elected by the residents to serve a four year term that began on July 1, 2002. As Chief Executive of the township, Mayor Smith has the enforcement responsibility for all ordinances, charter provisions, and preparation of the municipal budget. While the Mayor has the right to speak at Council meetings, he has no vote and is not required to attend, and was reelected in 2006.
There is one mosque in Irvington (Waris Cultural Center/Masjid Waarith ud Deen)
Aslon Goow Sr.,
Councilman, Patterson, NJ
See patcity.com, 2nd ward councilmanâ€”won most recent race in May 08.
Aslon Goow, Sr. acted against federal law enforcement agents to rifle through a citizenâ€™s library records or conduct secret searches, by through a resolution last year that urges Congress to repeal sections of the federal law.
â€œWeâ€™re all concerned about national security, there is no doubt. But at what cost?â€
More locally elected officials next week.
His city is home to thousands of Muslims and Arab Americans. â€œIt wasnâ€™t just to protect Arab Americans. It was to protect all Americans.â€
Paterson is one of nearly 390 communities and seven states to adopt resolutions in recent years urging federal lawmakers to curb sweeping new powers in the USA Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism legislation Congress passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Abdul â€œAlâ€ Haidous, the Mayor of City of Wayne, has many firsts to his credit. He is not only the first American Muslim of Arab origin to be elected as mayor he is also the first mayor of Wayne to be directly elected by the cityâ€™s residents.
First elected in 2001 Haidous continues to serve in that position till present. He had also served two terms on the city council in the past. A Lebanese native Haidous migrated to the US in 1969 and successfully ran a grocery store.
Trustee Syed Taj, Canton Township, MI
Democrat Syed S. Taj is a medical graduate, and has been a physician for the last forty years, on three continents.
He is chief of medicine at Oakwood Hospital, Dearborn, Michigan. He has a post-graduate degree in child health and adult medicine. He explained that he ran for this position â€œbecause I feel I can bring about my expertise to make improvements in the running of the township. I have experience in dealing with the public and extensive administrative responsibility, which will help me in this endeavor.â€
Dr. Taj ran as the sole Democrat in an election in which multiple candidates could win–therefore he faced no opposition in the primary at all, and ran with a very strong position in the general election as the only viable candidate for voting Democrats and for any people from the subcontinent, whether Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi. Many of these voters were able to use the voting strategy of â€œplunkingâ€ (voting for only one candidate where it was possible to vote for multiple candidates) to secure additional support for Taj relative to his opponents.
Canton township has a growing population of people of more diverse ethnic backgrounds, including many foreign-born immigrants, and therefore he explained to TMO before the election that the township is swinging more towards the blue than it used to.
Taj also has very strong professional connections, as a practising and established physician with a fairly high standing even within the politics of his hospital and within the medical field.
He used his considerable connections and standing to his own advantage during the campaign, and also showed strong leadership ability by securing help from fellow Republican candidates who had in turn lost in their primary election.
Councilman Hassan Fahmy, Prospect Park, NJ
Hassan Fahmy, born in Cairo, is the first elected official in the USA of Egyptian descent. Mr. Fahmy holds a Management position with 85 Broad Street Corporation, a transportation organization parenting five other companies, including Goldman Sachs. Mr. Fahmy holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Cairo, Egypt, Certificate of Retail Development from Mobil Oil Corporation, New York State Department of Motor Vehicle Inspectors Certificate, Passaic County Substitute Teachers Certificate from the State of N.J.-Grades K-12, and several other certificates of community and political concerns.
City Councilman Shahab Ahmed Hamtramck, MI
Shahab Ahmed has been serving on the council of Hamtramck since 2003. He was the first non-white to do so in the city.
When Ahmed and his family moved to Michigan from Sylhet in Bangladesh, he spoke no English. Although he had studied business administration in Bangladesh, his first job in Detroit was busing tables. Eventually, he and his brothers opened a restaurant.
His first steps into politics came when a customer of his was robbed. Feeling the cityâ€™s response lacking, Ahmed started the Caniff Avenue Improvement Project that served both as a neighborhood crime watch and cleanup group.
From there, he became director of the Hamtramck Chamber of Commerce and, in 1998, was asked by Mayor Gary Zych to work as multicultural coordinator.
The next year, he made his first run for the City Council, winning the support of the cityâ€™s Bangladeshi residents. But at election time, many who supported him endured abuse at the polls and two Hamtramck residents were convicted for harassing voters.
The next attempt came in 2001. But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, attacks, flyers were distributed accusing him of supporting terrorism and Ahmed lost.
In 2003 he bested ten other candidates to win the slot and continues to serve the city.
City Councilman Abdul Algazali Hamtramck, MI
Abdul Algazali serves as a councilman in the city of Hamtramck. A chiropractor by profession Algazali is passionate about human rights and has taken up several issues which made national headlines like public broadcast of Azan in the city.
Algazali last August ran for the primary for the office of the State House Representative but lost.