Young Pakistani Americans taking political recourse to counter Islamophobia

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WASHINGTON, May 24 (APP): Young Pakistani Americans are among a group of Muslims in the US State of Maryland who are entering electoral politics to help counter anti-Muslims sentiments recently spurred by some candidates during the 2016 presidential campaign, a news repor said on Monday.

Raaheela Ahmed, 22, is one such Pakistani American, who recently won the primary election for District 5 seat on the Prince George’s County Board of Education, according to a separate report by the Capital Gazette.

She ran for the post as a teenager four ago but lost, but this time around she was the top vote-getter, beating even the longest-serving member on the board, Jeana Jacobs, who remained President of the board from 2007 to 2013.

Rida Bukhari Rizivi, 32, is another young Pakistani American who ran for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee but narrowly lost. But, she is very encouraged by results of her first contest and is determined to do more, according to a report by the Washington Post.

“I was reluctant at first, but Hamza (Khan) urged me to run, and it became more than a seat on a committee,” said Bukhari-Rizvi about a Pakistani American colleague, who is an activist of Democratic Party and chairs the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County in Maryland, a neighboring state of capital Washington DC.

Khan, this spring, ran the campaign for Rizvi, a policy analyst, and Nadia Syahmalina, 34, an Indonesian American financial manager who ran in the Maryland primary to become a delegate for Clinton at the National Convention, the report said. Syahmalina also narrowly lost to her opponent.

Hamza Khan, who grew up in Maryland, is very active and working to open the political space to other Muslim groups, especially women. “We have nearly 100,000 Muslims in the county, from many countries and walks of life, but their political influence is zero – Few of them have faith in the democratic process, and many come from patriarchal societies. This is a battle to empower Muslim women.”
Rida Rizvi, who wears a white headscarf, said that they had never been given a voice before, but that she was part of a new crop of Muslim American women who are well-educated and well-spoken. “We can help combat Islamophobia, and we can carve out a future for others. If no one gives us the mantle, we will take it.”

Anti-Muslims sentiments have risen in recent months after some Republican presidential candidates, like Donald Trump, used recent terrorist attacks in Paris and in the US State last year to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments. Trump even demanded that entry of all Muslims in the US should be banned.

Syahmalina, from Indonesia is a supporter of Hillary Clinton, the front-runner of the Democratic Party said she was initially nervous as she thought of politics as ‘dirty’, but was encouraged by her Pakistani American colleague, Khan, to run in the Primary election.

The report quoting Zainab Chaudhry, Maryland state director for the Council on American Islamic Relations, a nonprofit advocacy group, said that with women, there was a trust factor. “People tend to open up more to them, than Muslim men.”