- - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

During one of the most memorable election cycles in recent history, one county in Maryland is adding its own twist: Three Muslim women are running for three different offices at the same time. The Muslim candidates all hail from varying backgrounds, but each reside in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Emmalee Aman is running for the Planning Board of Montgomery County (non-partisan), and is a Latina American; Rida-Bukhari Rizvi is attempting to join the powerful Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) and is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants; and Nadia Syahmalina is running to be Democratic National Committee (DNC) Delegate, is pledged to Hillary Clinton and is Indonesian-American.

Each of them has another thing in common: They all have the same campaign manager, Hamza Khan, who also happens to be a Muslim. According to Mr. Khan’s website, “Since 2001, [Mr. Khan] has advised, worked on, or consulted for over a dozen Democratic campaigns at the county, state, and national levels.”

Each of the candidates, and the campaign manager himself, comes from a wide diaspora in the Muslim community. For example, Ms. Bukhari-Rizvi is a Shia Muslim and wears the Islamic covering known as hijab. In Maryland, the Shia Muslim community is a fast-growing political entity, and candidates for federal office are already lining up to court votes at local Shia mosques, such as the Idara e Jaferia.

The other Muslim candidates, and the campaign manager, are Sunni Muslims, but do not believe there is any sectarian rivalry in the races or in the broader American Muslim community.

“Simply put,” says Ms. Bukhari-Rizvi, “Muslims in the United States have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of antipathy between Sunnis and Shias Here, we are consciously choosing to work shoulder to shoulder, even if we have different beliefs.”

Mr. Khan says the candidates are close friends with one another: “Each hails from a different region of the county, and belongs to a different ethno-cultural background. All three are driven to seek office by the desire to serve the public, and set an example for young minority women everywhere. Their decision to run is a testament to what Montgomery County is, and always will be: proud of its diversity and steeped in a tradition of inclusion.”

The Republican Party also has Muslim elected officials, such as Virginia State Representative David Ramadhan, who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2012 to 2016. Mr. Ramadhan received “endorsements from prominent Republicans — President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, Edwin Meese, and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) endorsed Ramadan during his primary against a longtime GOP activist” according to the Huffington Post.

Virginia is also home to another Muslim delegate, Sam Rasoul, who was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in January 2014. Mr. Rasoul, a Democrat, is the son of Palestinian immigrants.

Muslims have held state-level offices throughout the country, including North Carolina, New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, and even Alabama. Two sitting U.S. Congressmen are Muslims, Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, and Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat.

A Muslim has even served as the deputy mayor of Homeland Security in Los Angeles, Arif Alikhan.

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