I got a bit choked up on the day we were taking our official freshman pictures, which show all the new members of Congress. We were standing on the steps of the United States Capitol. From there I had a clear view across the Potomac river towards the city of Arlington, Virginia, where my family and I arrived as refugees a little over 20 years ago.
I was 12 when we arrived. We were an excited family, who were hopeful that we would all be accepted simply as Americans one day. We left Somalia in 1991 when the civil war broke out, hoping for a better life, and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before we were granted asylum.
To know that I will now be serving in the United States government, the first Somali-American to do so, is a clear message of optimism for kids around the world. Kids who might be in refugee camps, living in orphanages, in situations that are hard and devastating – hopefully this will show them that their today does not determine their tomorrow, and that they could still have a chance to have a new start and new opportunities.
I think my election, on 6 November, was a rejection of Donald Trump’s way of thinking. As someone who grew up Muslim and black post-9/11, I’m used to having people react negatively to me. But it was still surprising to see folks spend so much time and money trying to spread hateful things about me and my campaign. The response from the electorate in my district, Minnesota, was to vote me in as their representative with the biggest margin that anyone has ever won in the state.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to shape a narrative about what it means to be a Muslim in American society
As one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress – Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, will represent Michigan – at a time when our country is at a dangerous crossroads, and there are people fearmongering around our faith, it’s a wonderful opportunity to shape a narrative about what it means to be a Muslim in American society.
I’m hopeful for what Congress can achieve in 2019. The Democratic party’s first piece of legislation is HR1: a bill that aims to curb the influence of money in politics and expand voting rights. Once we accomplish that, we have the opportunity to organise around other things we want to enact. Our aim of supplying Medicare for all has bipartisan support nationwide, and our other aims, such as more humane immigration laws and making college more accessible, will be helped by passing HR1.
When the House of Representatives sits for the first time on 3 January, it will be the most racially diverse, with the most female members, in history. With the other first-term congresswomen, such as Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sharice Davids, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal and Deb Haaland, we’re trying to make sure that our firsts lead to many more. We want to set an example, so that young people who look like us tell themselves: “I can do this. I can go and be a representative for everyone in America.”
Source: The Guardine