Ghazala Hashmi was on her way to work one winter morning in 2017 when she heard news on the radio that left her in a panic: President Trump’s order banning refugees from certain Muslim countries was making headlines, and she was concerned about the possibility of a Muslim registry being created in the United States.
Ms. Hashmi, who came from India to the United States as a young child in 1969, pulled up to the community college where she worked, parked her minivan and froze. As a Muslim who had lived in the United States nearly all her life, she wondered, did she still have a place in the country she called home?
Ms. Hashmi, 55, shed those doubts on Tuesday when she became the first Muslim to be elected to the Virginia State Senate. At a victory party on Tuesday night, she addressed a cheering crowd: “You’ve proven that Ghazala is truly an American name!” she said, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Ms. Hashmi, a Democrat who upset the Republican incumbent to represent a district based in Chesterfield County, which includes suburban Richmond, won her contest amid a wave of Muslims running for elected office and more visible representation for Muslim women.
Last year, Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Since 2016, more than 300 Muslim candidates, including more than 100 women, have run for some type of elected office nationwide, according to a report tracking political involvement by Muslims.
A former literature professor and community college administrator, Ms. Hashmi campaigned on improving education, taking action on gun control and expanding access to health care. She will become the first Muslim woman in the Virginia General Assembly, according to her campaign. At least two Muslim men serve in the House.
“Muslims in America are just like any other American,” Ms. Hashmi said in an interview on Wednesday. “I have been a troop leader for Girl Scouts. I have been active in my daughters’ school and volunteer work. All the things that another suburban mom might be doing, I’ve been doing.”
At least three other Muslim women in Virginia clinched down-ballot contests on Tuesday, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which tracks Muslim candidates for public office.
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