Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison, the first and only Muslim elected to a statewide position, won reelection, as did representatives Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
A total of 82 Muslim Americans won seats in the 2022 U.S. midterm election, and 21 incumbent state legislators who were up for reelection also won. They were joined by 16 new members, thereby increasing the total number of Muslim state lawmakers to 43 nationwide.
A Hayward City Councilmember since 2018, Aisha Wahab, 33, defeated Fremont mayor Lily Mei for a seat in the state Senate — the first Afghan American woman elected to public office in the U.S.
The closely watched race was subject to over $7.7 million in spending, after several special interest committees flooded money into a shadow campaign to get their preferred candidate elected, and featured attack ads on both sides.
The business community, which includes health care provider DaVita Inc., the California Charter Schools Association and the California Chamber of Commerce, backed Mei, while the labor unions helped Wahab get elected.
Wahab lost her father to homicide and then her mother at an early age — she was placed in foster care and personally experienced economic instability. Her experience led her to commit her career to public service.
Born in New York City and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wahab and her sister were adopted by a young self-employed Afghan American couple who taught them the value of hard work, perseverance and a strong sense of pride as Americans with great respect for their Afghan heritage.
Wahab, who is currently pursuing her doctorate, has an MBA (Cal State University East Bay) and B.A. (San Jose State University).
Ruwa Romman (D) (B.A., Oglethorpe Univ. ‘15; M.A., Georgetown ‘19), the first Muslima in the state house and a granddaughter of Palestinian refugees, was born in Jordan. Her family moved to Georgia when she was 7 years old.
Last year, this senior consultant for a professional services company leveraged her platform to inform thousands of Georgians about how to get involved in the 2020 elections. In addition to working as a field organizer for the Asian American Advocacy Fund, Romman helped establish the Georgia Volunteer Hub to train the influx of Georgian and national volunteers while connecting them to local organizations.
Having volunteered in every election cycle since 2014 to help flip Georgia blue, Romman also worked as a field organizer for the Georgia Muslim Voter Project and served as CAIR Georgia’s communications director.
Nabilah Islam, 32 (B.A., Georgia State University, ‘12), founder of NAI Consulting LLC and former worker for Jason Carter’s Gubernatorial Campaign in 2014, served as Hillary Clinton’s Deputy Southern States Finance Director in 2016, as well as with the Democratic National Committee’s Southern States Finance Director (2018) and ran a historic campaign for Congress in Georgia’s 7th district (2020).
A child of Bangladeshi American parents, she played a critical role in flipping Georgia Blue in 2020 by serving as senior advisor to the Gwinnett County Party and increasing the margin for Biden by 2% in the general election and an additional 2% for Ossoff and Warnock in the 2021 run-off special election.
Farooq Mughal (B.A., Mercer University in Macon, 2000), a son of Pakistani immigrants who arrived in Lawrenceville, Ga. in 1995, grew up in Gwinnett County.
In 2008, Mughal founded his own governmental affairs firm, MS Global Partners – Government and Business Advisors, and has grown it into a premier bipartisan public policy firm.
Mughal’s first job after graduating from Mercer University was at King & Spalding LLP, Atlanta’s largest and most prestigious law firm. He then served for over two years as a legal aide to Gwinnett County chief assistant solicitor general, where he conducted legislative research and coordinated seminars for the prosecuting attorney’s Council of Georgia and Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
He was recognized by Georgia Trend Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in the areas of Government in Politics, 25 Most Influential Asian Americans by Georgia Asian Times, 100 Most Influential American Muslims in Law and Government by the Islamic Speakers Bureau and “People on the Move” by Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Nabeela Syed, 23 (B.S., business administration; B.A., political science, University of California, Berkeley, ‘21) became the youngest member of the Illinois state senate.
The Illinois-born Syed has worked with many organizations, including EMILY’s List, to raise money to elect Democrats to Congress. Currently, she works for a nonprofit in digital strategy that supports various civic engagement efforts, including voter mobilization, ending sexual assault on college campuses and promoting gender equity.
Syed , who has been engaged in her community, serving as a mentor for youth as a high school debate coach is active at the Islamic Society of Northwest Suburbs and a strong advocate for promoting interfaith dialogue and empowering young Muslimas to lead.
As a Berkeley student, she was president of a pro-bono consulting organization that assists local businesses and nonprofits.
Abdelnasser Rashid (D) (B.A., Harvard) was born in Chicago. Fifty-five years ago, his parents moved to the U.S. from Palestine. They were among the first in their rural village to send their daughters to college.
Rashid grew up helping his mother run a booth at the local flea market and his father operate a small retail business in Chicago. After graduating, he returned to Chicago and joined the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to fight for immigration reform in the state and nationwide.
In addition, he was the field director for Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s mayoral campaign and served as deputy chief of staff to Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Rashid led a successful effort to help senior citizens save time and money by passing legislation to automatically renew the senior exemption, instead of forcing them to apply for the exemption each year.
He is married and has three children.
Deqa Dhalac (D), 54, the first Somali American and Muslim mayor of South Portland — a city that’s 90% white — has made headlines again by being elected to the Maine House of Representatives.
Dhalac (M.S, University of New Hampshire; M.S.W., University of New England ‘17) began her political career in South Portland in 2018 by running — and winning — for the South Portland City Council. She was reelected in 2020.
Dhalac, who fled Somalia in 1990 just before the outbreak of civil war, immigrated to the U.S. in 1992.
She has served as intercultural program manager for the Maine Center for Grieving Children.
Mana Abdi (D), 26, who ran unopposed after her Republican challenger dropped out during August, is one of the two Somali Americans elected to the Maine Legislature.
Born in a Kenyan refugee camp, Abdi’s (B.A., University of Maine at Farmington ʽ18) family immigrated to the U.S. in 2007 when she was 11. Arriving without knowing how to read or write in English or any other language, today she’s a trilingual college graduate who has helped other first-generation students at Bates College adjust to higher education. She has also served as legal advocate at Disability Rights Maine.
One of the stars of Lewiston’s immigrant community, Abdi has overcome adversity. In May 2013, the high school track and field athlete lost everything when her apartment building burned down. More than three weeks later, she was among the three athletes who qualified for the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship.
Zaynab Mohamed (Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party), 25, became the youngest — and one of the first — Black women to be elected to the Minnesota senate.
Mohamed, a Minneapolis resident and former policy aide (B.A., University of Minnesota, ‘19), grew up in south Minneapolis after her family immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia. She remembers helping her family pay essential bills by working jobs at a young age and navigating public services while taking care of her younger sister and grandfather.
Mohamed, who previously worked as a policy aide for Minneapolis City Councilmember Jason Chavez, also served as Minnesota-CAIR’s community advocacy manager.
Mujtaba Aziz Mateen Mohammed (D), 37, was reelected for a third term in the North Carolina State Senate, securing 81.74% of the votes.
Born in Toledo, Ohio, to immigrant Hyderabadi parents and raised in Charlotte, Mohammed (B.A., University of North Carolina, Charlotte; J.D., North Carolina Central University School of Law) has worked as a children’s rights advocate and public interest attorney. In addition to defending the rights of the underprivileged, she has functioned as a staff attorney for Council for Children’s Rights (2014-16).
Hamida Dakane (D) (B.A., North Dakota State University, ‘19, M.P.A.; University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.), became the first woman of Somali descent elected to the state House.
A community organizer who serves as the Fargo Human Rights Commission’s commissioner, she is a YWCA Woman of the Year Award winner and Fargo Human Rights Award winner.
Born in northeastern Kenya’s Somali region, Dakane arrived in the U.S. in 2011 with just a briefcase of clothes, a couple dollars — and the hope that her life would get better and faith in the American dream. Eight years later, she is fulfilling those dreams.
She co-founded the Afro American Development Association, was appointed to the Fargo Human Relations Commission, helped lead the local Somali community and was the educational chair for the North Dakota State University African Student Union (now the Black Student Association) when she was a student there. Dakane has also worked to engage other new American citizens in the political process.
Munira Yasin Abdullahi (D), 26 (B.A., The Ohio State University ‘19), became the first Muslima and Somali American to win a seat in the Ohio legislature.
The city, Columbus, has the nation’s second-largest Somali population behind Minneapolis.
Abdullahi spent 10 years working at the Muslim American Society, advocating for and promoting youth development, leadership and community service. An IGNITE national fellow, she is dedicated to increasing civic engagement and legislative presence among young women. As a person with type-1 diabetes, Abdullahi is also passionate about making sure healthcare and medications are affordable and accessible.
Ismail Ali Mohamed (D) (B.A., The Ohio State University, ‘13, J.D., The Ohio State University ‘17), a Somali refugee and one of the Columbus’ first Somali-born attorneys licensed to practice in the state, is founder and managing attorney of Ismail Law Office.
Minneapolis’s decision (2022) to allow a temporary call to prayer during the remainder of Ramadan prompted him to push for a similar approval in central Ohio. In 2020, the Columbus-based Al-Rahma Mosque attained official permission to broadcast the adhan daily.
With the help of local organizers, he orchestrated the effort to allow the adhan to be called outside a mosque. His office reached out to elected officials, city officials, clergy and others. Residents and the mosque leadership signed petitions to show their support. Organizers notified non-Muslim residents about the prayer in advance and asked for their blessing.
Tarik S. Khan, MSN, RN, is the immediate past president of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association and a Philadelphia family nurse practitioner who served on the frontlines of the pandemic while completing his Ph.D. in nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.
Khan currently serves as chairperson of Enabling Minds, a nonprofit in Haiti focusing on children with developmental disabilities. He has won several awards for his advocacy, among them the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities’ Champions of Equal Opportunity Award for Advocacy, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Influencers of Healthcare Award and Billy Penn’s Who’s Next: Community Leader Award. He also has been cited by Philadelphia City Council and The Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Khan, who has analyzed topics ranging from health disparities to nursing advocacy for the White House and media outlets, is a frequent guest on local news programs to discuss health care issues affecting the community.
Suleman Lalani, M.D., who has been in private practice in the Greater Houston area for the last two decades and in Sugar Land for 17 years, migrated to the U.S. during the early 1990s.
Lalani completed his fellowship training at Baylor College of Medicine and has attended courses at Harvard Medical School and Columbia University College of Physicians. He has been triple board-certified in internal medicine, geriatric medicine and hospice and palliative medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine, certified by the American Medical Directors Association and recognized by the National Register of Who’s Who for Excellence in Geriatric Medicine.
He’s also a board member for the Alzheimer’s Association and has served as its ambassador to the U.S. Congress.
A former chairman (four years) for the Aga Khan Foundation USA’s regional committee, locally he serves on the Fort Bend Rainbow Room, a resource room stocked with emergency and transitional supplies to meet the critical needs of Fort Bend County’s abused and neglected children and adults. He also serves on the board of the Exchange Club Exchange of Fort Bend, the country’s premier service club, working to make our communities better places to live.
Salman Bhojani, founder of Bhojani Law PLLC., worked three minimum-wage jobs to help support his family. He gradually climbed the ladder from convenience store cashier to successful business owner, attorney and Euless City Councilman.
The first Muslim and South Asian ever elected to the Texas legislature, he’s also the first person of color ever elected to represent House District 92.
Bhojani’s parents immigrated to the Lone Star State when he was 17 years old. After becoming a naturalized citizen, he earned a B.S. ’03 (University of Texas at Dallas), J.D. ‘13 (Southern Methodist University Law) and became a small business owner by purchasing convenience stores across the DFW Metroplex.