On the Politics and Policy of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar

Published November 7th, 2018 - 02:26 GMT
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar made it to the Congress as first Muslim women. (Twitter)
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar made it to the Congress as first Muslim women. (Twitter)

By Randa Darwish

It became a well-known fact that the 2018 midterm elections in the US has made history with surprising wins for Democrats who took back control over the US House after it was dominated by a Republican majority for years.

The midterms witnessed the win of Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, the first native American women to Congress, beside Jared Polis, the first openly gay man to win a governors race. Ayanna Pressley became the first Black congresswoman from Massachusetts and Safiya Wazir, a refugee from Afghanistan, was elected in Concord.

For the Middle East, it has been slightly different. Arabs and Muslims were cautiously anticipating the projected wins of Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian-American candidate and the Somali-American Ilhan Omar as the first two Muslim women to enter the Congress

Rashida Tlaib, who was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, is a progressive Democrat who went onto represent Michigan's Congressional District. Her Palestinian origins and pro-Palestinian views have been controversial at a time when the Trump administration taking Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a new era.

Ilhan Omar has joined Tlaib after strongly winning Minnesota’s congressional district to be the first Muslim, Somali, hijabi and refugee woman elected for the Congress.

While both of them were known for their Arab and Muslim background, other details are often missing from the coversation. Here are a couple of things you might not know.

1- Rashida Tlaib began her political career in 2004 when she started an internship with State Representative Steve Tobocman. Ilhan Omar began her political career in 2013, when she managed Andrew Johnson's campaign for Minneapolis City Council.

2- Both progressive Democrat candidates were campaigning on very similar platforms. They had both campaigned for free college tuition fees and were opposing Trump’s policies on migration, Israel-Palestine conflict.

3- Tlaib campaigned to secure a $15 minimum wage, preventing cuts to welfare programmes, such as Medicare and Social Security, as well as stopping tax relief to large corporations. Omar campaigned to end funding for perpetual war and military aggression, call to end US sanctions against several countries; including Somalia.

4- On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Talib had earlier expressed a clear support for people who engage in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. While Omar expresses support for the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians emphasising the achievement of justice.

Translation: “Rashida is one of the supporters of the right of return [for Palestinians] and she expressed support with the BDS. Now she enters the Congress.”

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