Two Muslim women have been elected to positions in the House of Representatives, the larger of the two chambers that make up the US congress.
One of the biggest stories to come out of the US mid-term elections on the 6th November was the success of both female and minority candidates, most notably victories for Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar who became the first Muslim women to be elected to the US congress. Tlaib won a seat in Michigan’s 13th congressional district, while Omar won in Minnesota’s fifth congressional district.
As well as being noteworthy due to them breaking new ground in US politics, these victories are also significant given the political climate in the US. Tlaib has said, of her election, “We changed the course of history at a time we thought it was impossible”. This is likely because the election of Donald Trump in 2016 marked a turning point in US politics which saw a campaign be successful despite targeting certain groups in society, none more so than Mexicans and Muslims. This is evident in one of Trump’s pledges, which was then enforced by executive order, which has seen people from several Muslim-majority countries banned from entering the US (this was upheld by the Supreme Court in January).
In light of this, the new representation of Muslim women in the lower chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, which has traditionally been dominated by Christian males (who made up 90.7% of Congress in 2017, according to a study by the Pew research centre in January of that year), shows that groups that could potentially be marginalised under the current administration will be represented.
It is also significant that the Democrats have taken the Republicans’ majority in the House of Representatives, meaning that they will be far better equipped to influence legislation. As all Muslims in congress are Democrats, the party’s new-found power after four years of Republican dominance over both chambers of the legislative branch will allow for Muslim representation and far better protection against an administration which could be seen as prejudicial towards Islam. Overall, this marks a big step forward in terms of minority rights and representation, and also helps to shake up a legislature which has been traditionally dominated by white Christian men and has not historically reflected the multicultural nature of US society.