Keith Ellison

In U.S. political campaigns, 2018 will also be the year of the Muslim candidates

In U.S. political campaigns, 2018 will also be the year of the Muslim candidates

While the media hail 2018’s historic total of female and LGBTQ political candidates, religion writers should be covering the unprecedented 90 or more Muslims, virtually all Democrats, running for national, state, or local office. That’s the count from the Justice Education Technology Political Advocacy Center, founded in 2015 to promote Muslim candidacies. 

President Donald Trump’s words and deeds toward Muslims doubtless energize this electoral activism. Not to mention Virginia’s faltering Republican U.S. Senate nominee, Corey Stewart, who smeared Michigan governor candidate Abdul El-Sayed as an “ISIS commie.” 

Pioneering Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and very likely Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, are guaranteed media stardom, in line to be  the first Muslim women in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Tlaib, who succeeds disgraced Congressman John Conyers, just edged Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in a six-candidate Democratic primary scramble. She’ll run unopposed in November for the 13thdistrict seat.  The oldest of  Palestianian immigrants’ 14 children and a mother of two, Tlaib earned a law degree through weekend classes and was elected to the Michigan House, reportedly only the second U.S. Muslim woman to be  a state legislator.

Two other Muslim hopefuls fell short in Michigan. El-Sayed, director of Detroit’s health department, lost the governor nomination to former state Senator Gretchen Whitmer. In U.S. House district 11, Fayrouz  Saad, who directs Detroit’s immigrant affairs office, took only fourth place.    

The first Muslim in the U.S. House, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is the most politically powerful U.S. Muslim to date, nearly winning the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee and is currently its deputy chairman.

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With Canada's shifting demographics, Sikh politician’s rise may be glimpse of future

With Canada's shifting demographics, Sikh politician’s rise may be glimpse of future

How many American journalists, including the dwindling number of staff religion reporters, are capable of accurately writing about the Sikh faith without first needing to resort to a quick Goggle search? Very few, I'd bet.

I'd also wager that Canadian journalists are similarly challenged. This could change, however, now that our northern neighbor has just witnessed the first Sikh being voted head of one of Canada’s major political parties.

That would be Jagmeet Singh, the son of Indian immigrants, who is now the national leader of the liberal New Democratic Party. NDP is Canada’s third largest party, though it was number two for a spell earlier this decade. (Remember, Canada operates within a parliamentary system, unlike the United States where just two parties dominate).

Singh, a provincial parliament member from Ontario, is also the first non-white to head a major Canadian party. Click here for The New York Times story on Singh’s election. Click here for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation profile of the man.

Note that Singh wears a turban and other symbols of the Sikh religion. I'd call that a bold move for a national politician in a country with a majority white Christian population.

Imagine if Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who was born into a Sikh family that lived in Canada prior to moving to South Carolina, had not converted to Protestant Christianity and still wore traditional Sikh garb.

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