After the results were released for the local parliamentary elections in Italy’s economic capital, Milan, Sumaya Abdelqader took to Facebook to thank her supporters: “Thanks so much to everyone who put their confidence in me and wrote my name on the ballot Sunday”.
Abdelqader, the Italian-born Muslim woman of Palestinian-Jordanian heritage, secured a position as MP in Milan’s parliamentary elections last Sunday and has become the first Muslim woman to hold such a position in the city’s history. It’s a remarkable feat for the 38 year old Arab-Italian, whose achievements has earned her great respect in her hometown and abroad.
Abdelqader studied Sociology in her university days, and now leads a project to combat domestic violence and abuse of women called “Ai’sha” (a popular Muslim girl’s name and one of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives). She is a member of Italy’s democratic party, which is typically characterized as center-left, and in interviews with Italian press has spoken out about her intentions to advocate for the rights and personal freedoms of women.
In a recent interview with Italian newspaper “Repubblica”, Abdelqader spoke out against a recent decision by an Italian company to prohibit the hijab (Islamic headscarf) in the workplace. When asked if she would advocate for the right of women to wear the hijab after being elected, she replied:
“We will defend the rights of people and of women, especially when it comes to individual choices that do not affect social relationships and not bother anyone. The hijab should be a free choice for women, never imposed by an exterior force, an imam, or by family men.”
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