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As Americans vote in Midterm Elections, focus is on these two Muslim women

Monday November 5, 2018 10:43 AM, News Network

Ilhan Omar

Washington: US voters are poised to elect two Muslim women to Congress in the midterm election this Tuesday, marking a historic first even as anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric has been on the rise.

Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee, is all but certain to be elected to the US House of Representatives in a heavily-Democratic district in the Midwestern state of Minnesota, where she is the party's nominee.

Rashida Tlaib, a social worker born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, will win a House seat in a district where she is running unopposed.

The two will be the first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress. They will increase the total number of Muslims in Congress to three. The election of these Muslim women in Congress offers a sharp counterpoint to the anti-Muslim policies and sentiment surfacing in Washington and across the country, especially after Trump became president.

Congressman Andre Carson, who is Muslim and African American, is likely to win re-election in his safely-Democratic district in the state of Indiana, according to AFP.

Both Tlaib and Omar have positioned themselves as polar opposites of President Donald Trump and his Republican Party.

They oppose Trump's restrictive immigration policies, support a universal health care system which Republicans oppose, and want to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE has conducted raids throughout the country, leaving immigrant communities terrified of deportations- including longtime Iraqi refugees in Michigan.

"The election of Donald Trump was a wake-up call," Colin Christopher of the Islamic Society of North America told AFP.

"Now we're seeing communities that were once absent from public conversations... all of a sudden are really engaged."

Rashida Tlaib

The two women are part of a historically diverse crop of candidates- by race, gender, and sexuality- challenging Republican incumbents.

They reflect a Trump era in which race and women's rights and empowerment have emerged as flashpoint issues for Democrats, and identity politics are increasingly important.

Polls indicate next week's election will likely hand Democrats control of the lower house of Congress in a rebuke of Trump's administration. The Senate is seen as more likely to stay in Republican majority control, AFP reported.

If Omar wins on Tuesday, she will fill Rep. Keith Ellison’s seat. Democrat Ellison, who in 2006 became the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, decided to run for Minnesota attorney general and won his primary, despite an allegation of domestic abuse arising late in the campaign, an accusation he denies.

Rashida Tlaib also supported Omar’s run, sending a dozen of her campaign workers to Minnesota to canvas for Omar the weekend before the election.

“I can’t wait to walk onto the floor of United States Congress hand in hand with you. So incredibly proud of you,” Tlaib said of Omar on Twitter.

Born in Somalia, Omar spent four years of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to the United States. Her district encompasses Minneapolis and surrounding suburban area, home to the largest Somali community in the country, according to CNBC.

The focus of the 2018 US Midterm polls in also on Indian-Americans - about 100 of whom are in the fray. The US Congress currently has a total of 05 Indian-Americans as members. The emergence of such a large number of young Indian-Americans reflects the growing desire of this small ethnic community comprising one per cent of the US population.

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