Rashida Tlaib set to become first Muslim woman in US Congress

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Rashida Tlaib is set to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress after comfortably winning her Democratic primary election in the US state of Michigan.

The 42-year-old, who is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, won Tuesday’s primary in the state’s 13th congressional district, securing 33.6 percent of the vote, compared with the 28.5 percent her nearest rival Brenda Jones received. Bill Wild received 14.5 percent, according the Detroit Free Press.

No Republicans or third-party candidates entered the primary, meaning Tlaib is set to win the seat in November’s election for a two-year term that will begin in January.

She is simultaneously running to serve out the last two months of John Conyers’ term, who stepped down in December citing health reasons amid allegations of sexual harassment. That special election is still too close to call, according to the Associated Press, who said on Wednesday that Tlaib and her opponent, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, were in a dead heat. The winner of the race will also run unopposed in November’s election and will serve out the last two months of Conyers’ term.

“Thank you so much for making this unbelievable moment possible. I am at a loss for words. I cannot wait to serve you in Congress,” she wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

In 2006, Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, became the first Muslim elected to Congress. He is currently running for attorney general in his home state. Andre Carson, a Democratic representative from Indiana, was the second Muslim to serve in Congress. He was elected in 2008.

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, DC, described Tlaib’s win in the primary as inspirational for women and minorities.

“There were records broken in terms of the number of women that were successful in these primaries, at least 11 women will now be running for governor in November and at least 182 women will be running for the House of Representatives,” she said.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric

Tlaib told ABC news earlier this week that her decision to run was prompted by increasing attacks against American-Muslims and immigrants since the election of US President Donald Trump.

A study from the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported a 15-percent increase in Islamophobic-related crimes in the United States last year.

“I didn’t run because my election would be historic. I ran because of injustices and because of my boys, who are questioning their [Muslim] identity and whether they belong,” Tlaib told ABC.

“When you see a Palestinian person with your name and faith succeed, it shows [the government] can ban us from coming into the country, but not from getting elected.

“Showing people it can be done would be a victory to my family.”

The 2018 midterm elections have seen a record number of Muslims – at least 90 – running for political office since the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to Jetpac, an organisation helping Muslim-Americans run for political office.

Other Muslims running include Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Sameena Mustafa in Illinois.

Meanwhile, Abdul el-Sayed, who was seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in Michigan, lost his primary race on Tuesday.