DETRIOT – An American Muslim community organizer announced on Tuesday her bid to join the race for the US Congress seat in Michigan, taking her chances as the first possible Muslim congresswoman.
“My voice as a mother working for justice for all is needed in Washington,” former State Representative, Rashida Tlaib, told Detroit Free Press.
Tlaib, the 1st Muslim woman at Michigan Legislature, launched her campaign for membership at the US Congress on Tuesday.
The Muslim Democrat aims to win the seat of former Rep. John Conyers Jr. who resigned in December 2017.
“It’s something that is inspiring to many people – even if you’re not Muslim – to know that a girl like me who grew up poor in south Detroit, who didn’t speak English when I started school, with a faith that is literally being targeted every single day by not only this administration but the media, could run and win and make history,” Tlaib said.
“Even though people still may not understand my faith, I expose it in such an impactful way through public service. … People still can’t pronounce my name, but they remember the things that I do for them.”
Aside from Tlaib, Fayrouz Saad is another Democratic candidate for Congress in the 11th District who can also become the 1st Muslim congresswoman if elected to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham.
Saad has previous experience in working for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office as director of immigration affairs.
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, another Detroit native, was the 1st Muslim elected to the chamber in 2007 and was followed by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana.
Tlaib worked with the Democratic state Rep. Steve Tobocman before her election to the state House in 2008, serving through 2014.
The Muslim politician, whose House district included southwest Detroit and Dearborn, narrowly lost a 2014 primary race challenging State Senator Virgil Smith, who has since resigned.
Currently, the 41-year-old is a public interest lawyer at the nonprofit Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice.
“My greatest legacy in the Legislature was creating a neighborhood service center, the Mary Turner Center for Advocacy, which offers free tax representation and helps for residents facing mortgage foreclosure and for high-school students filling out forms for college aid,” Tlaib said.
“I also led efforts to require community benefits in taxpayer-subsidized development deals and to mandate a Cancer Cluster Study requirement for an area of southwest Detroit affected by industrial pollution. Besides, I pushed to pass legislation cracking down on scrap metal theft and mortgage fraud.”
In an official statement, Tlaib said, “I really dislike bullies that take advantage of our families and homeowners, and who corrupt our democratic process. And yes, sometimes that means I will block their trucks or organize campaigns against them and shame the elected officials who support their lies.”
The daughter of Palestinian immigrants is the eldest of 14 siblings. She graduated from Southwestern High School, Wayne State University, and Thomas Cooley Law School. Now, she’s a mother of two sons, ages 6 and 12.
Tlaib made news in 2016 when she stood during a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump at the Detroit Economic Club, asking him to “read the US Constitution,” and was escorted out by security, along with other protesters.
Last year, she joined a federal lawsuit alleging that political district maps drawn by Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature discriminated against Democratic voters to protect GOP majorities at the state Capitol and in Congress.