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Arizona’s First Muslim Judge Sworn In

Wearing her hijab and using a copy of the Qur’an, Laila Ikram made history this week, taking the bench as the first Muslim judge in Arizona.

“[The court system] is moving closer to a representative of the community by having me on the bench,” said Ikram, a North Carolina native born to parents who emigrated to the US from the Middle East, Phoenix Business Journal reported.

“A really important part of people seeking a day in court is wanting to be heard. People feel more heard when the person in front of them reflects the people they know and the people in their community.”

📚 Read Also:  Jersey City Appoints First Muslim Chief Judge

While Ikram’s achievement is the first for a Muslim woman in Arizona, it is not the first in the US.

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Earlier this year, US President Joe Biden picked in January eight judicial nominees, including Nusrat Choudhury who would be the first Muslim woman to serve as a federal judge.

Michigan’s solicitor general Fadwa Hammoud also made history in October 2021 by becoming the first Arab American Muslim woman to argue before the US Supreme Court.

Arizona’s First Muslim Judge Sworn In - About Islam

Helping People

Ikram was sworn in on Monday as a judge pro tempore by Judge Enrique Medina Ochoa, the justice of the peace for the Downtown Justice Court Precinct.

A pro tempora judge is a judge who fills in on matters when full-time judges cannot. Being a pro-tem judge is a starting point to making a leap to appointment as a judge on a permanent basis.

“My whole goal with being an attorney is that I want to serve the community. Justice Courts are the highest volume courts in the county. Most people don’t have multimillion-dollar claims and issues,” Ikram said.

📚 Read Also: Zahid Quaraishi Confirmed as First Muslim Federal Judge

“[Justice Court] is where most people resolve their issues. I feel like I have the ability to help people quickly and in a just way.”

In the past 10 years, the Muslim population has grown by more than 100,000 to about 120,000 people in Arizona. 

In a state that is around 50% white, judges across the different levels of the court system are 86.7% white, according to a 2021 report of Arizona’s court diversity from the Arizona Advocacy Foundation. More than 62% of all judges in Arizona are men.