The Halal Blue Wave Comes Ashore in Michigan

UPDATE I: This morning I was on Fox Business AM to discuss last night's primary elections. A clip of my comments are available on YouTube <----(Click on the video on the left)

UPDATE II: I was honored to be on PRI & WYNC's The Takeaway to discuss The Halal Blue Wave. Here's a link to the audio:

Hopes were high in Michigan on Tuesday Night that one of three Muslim Americans running for office would win. Most bets were on Abdel Sayed to pull off the win. But the ballots were counted, he and former Obama official Fayrouz Saad came out short. Rashida Tlaib, the second Muslim American woman to be elected to a state legislature, and one of 14 siblings of a Ford Motors worker, triumphed against the odds in Michigan to become the first Muslim woman to be elected to Congress. She faces no Republican opposition in her race.

Tlaib's victory came against several entrenched establishment figures, including another minority candidate, Brenda Jones. Tlaib's victory was hoped for, but not entirely expected, with several leading news journals covering the Detroit-region race doubting her ability to pull off a win as late as Monday night. However, Tliab's impressive ground game, strong fundraising, and appeal as the daughter of blue collar parents from Motown triumphed. 

Tlaib is part of a new generation of Muslim candidates, far more liberal and progressive than the Muslim community's established political leadership of bundlers and megadonors, largely of South Asian heritage, and who have, until now, resisted the rise a new generation of leaders not of "Desi" background.  

A record number of Muslims were running as Democrats this year for offices up and down the ballot, dubbed the “Halal Blue Wave”. Along with Republican Omar Qudrat in California, Democratic incumbent Andre Carson in Indianapolis, and New Jersey Republican Agha Khan, Tlaib will be on the ballot in November. 

Tlaib’s win signifies a huge shift within the Muslim American community. The symbolism – Tlaib is an Arab Palestinian – is also felt. The two current Muslims in Congress – DNC Vice Chair Keith Ellison from Minnesota & Andre Carson from Indianapolis are both men, and African-American. Tlaib is the first Muslim woman to be elected. 

Moreover, the coalition Tlaib put together of donors, activists & politicos reflects the future of the Democratic Party: unapologetically leftist, ethnically diverse & proudly immigrant and female. Tlaib’s politics mirror those of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She supports a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, and aggressively challenging Donald Trump’s unabashedly anti-immigrant views. 

Fayrouz Saad Finishes in a Close Third

Also impressive was the third-place finish of Fayrouz Saad, an amazing candidate whose political potential remains intact. Saad is a former Obama official with street credit in national security circles. She is largely considered a policy wonk whose broad network of donors and supporters spread across the country. Saad was on the DCCC’s radar from the beginning, before the brother of CNN’s Sanjay Gupta jumped into the race to make a name for himself. Both she and gubernatorial candidate Abdul El Sayed will be back soon. 

The Crimson Tide

Two Muslims have succeeded in becoming GOP congressional nominees. Former intelligence official Omar Qudrat (CA-52) & South Asian community leader Agha Khan (NJ-08) succeded in winning their primaries. Qudrat, a millennial is Afghan American, while Khan, is a septuagenarian, and belongs to the retiring South Asian generation of Muslim leadership.  

The End of the Uncle John Era

For years, the Muslim community leadership in the United States has been dominated largely foreign-born immigrants with less than stellar progressive report cards on the issues. Due to their willingness to oppose progressive reform, and blocking of the organic rise of younger leaders, they are collectively known as "Uncle Johns", a play on the pejorative “uncle tom” (in the South Asian language of Urdu, the word “John” means “beloved”). A battle for the soul of Muslim America began just as soon as Hillary Clinton lost her presidential bid in 2016. Establishment leaders largely backed Clinton while many young Muslim activists and progressives backed Bernie Sanders. 

Tlaib’s win was largely done without their input or active support. Instead, Tlaib focused on cultivating relationships she had made over the years with progressive Muslim leaders like civil rights activist & fellow Palestinian American Linda Sarsour. Tlaib endured sneak attacks from the Left by those fearing the rise of an empowered Muslim woman in American politics, as well as Dark Money attacks that are believed to have originated from the Right. 

Qudrat & Tlaib’s wins signify the rise of a younger, more diverse generation of Muslim leaders less defined by ethnic identity and far more so by the one factor that does unite us: our country. While they hail from opposite sides of the political spectrum, Qudrat & Tlaib are coming to represent a far more diverse America than the one their parents immigrated to back in the day. That in turn speaks volumes about what America still remains in these dark days of Trumpism: a beacon of hope that all nations and tribes might come together here, and come to know one another as fellow Americans.  

Despite Donald Trump’s efforts, the future is bright for America.