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US voters poised to elect 2 Muslim women to Congress

This article is more than 12 months old

They are expected to be elected to House of Representatives in midterms

CHICAGO : US voters are poised to elect two Muslim women to Congress in the midterm election next week, marking a historic first even as anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric has been on the rise.

Ms Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee, is all but certain to be elected to the US House of Representatives in a heavily-Democratic district in the Midwestern state of Minnesota, where she is the party's nominee.

Ms Rashida Tlaib, a social worker born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, will win a House seat in a district where she is running unopposed.

The two will be the first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress. They will increase the total number of Muslims in Congress to three.

Congressman Andre Carson, who is Muslim and African American, is likely to win reelection in his safely-Democratic district in the state of Indiana.

The expected electoral milestone is in stark contrast to the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment around the country. The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported a 21 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the first six months of this year.

Both Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar have positioned themselves as polar opposites of President Donald Trump and his Republican Party.

They oppose Mr Trump's restrictive immigration policies, support a universal health care system which Republicans oppose, and want to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE has conducted raids throughout the country, leaving immigrant communities terrified of deportations - including long-time Iraqi refugees in Michigan.

"The election of Donald Trump was a wake-up call," Mr Colin Christopher of the Islamic Society of North America said.

"Now we're seeing communities that were once absent from public conversations... all of a sudden are really engaged."

The two women are part of a historically diverse crop of candidates - by race, gender, and sexuality - challenging Republican incumbents.

They reflect a Trump era in which race and women's rights and empowerment have emerged as flashpoint issues for Democrats, and identity politics are increasingly important.

Polls indicate next week's election may hand Democrats control of the lower house of Congress in a rebuke of Mr Trump's administration.- AFP

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