Nida Allam, North Carolina’s first elected Muslim woman, casts eyes on Congress
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Nida Allam made headlines in March 2020 when she became the first Muslim woman to win an elected office in North Carolina. Now the 27-year-old Democrat and member of the Durham County Council of Commissioners has set her sights on Washington, DC, announcing on Monday that she would run for Congress.
“I hope voters see that I am someone who is going to jump in and get down to business in Congress. The problems we are facing right now in America require an urgent response, ”Allam said. “We need someone who is going to start doing the job immediately and standing up for all the North Carolinians.”
Allam is running for the seat that Representative David Price, a Democrat who is retiring at the end of his term in 2022, has held almost continuously since 1987. The 4th Congressional District includes Durham, Orange and the surrounding counties and has long voted for the Democrats. ; a controversial redistribution map published last week would turn it into the 6th arrondissement.
If her next candidacy is successful, Allam would join Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) And Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) As the third Muslim woman in Congress, and only fifth Muslim overall including Representative André Carson ( D-Ind.) And former rep Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).
Like his predecessors, Allam faced Islamophobia during his political rise. But she hopes to usher in a more progressive agenda in her district by fighting climate change and advocating for reproductive rights and a more inclusive Congress.
Born in Canada, Allam and her family moved to Cary, North Carolina when she was 5 years old. She graduated from the local public school system and graduated from North Carolina State University in Sustainable Materials and Technologies in 2015.
Allam planned to work in this area. But in February 2015, his friends and classmates Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were beaten down at Chapel Hill. The incident was initially presented as a parking dispute, despite the insistence of the families of the victims the murders were a hate crime. When the gunman was convicted in 2019, the police returned to this framework and recognized the Islamophobic and hateful nature of the murders.
“After losing the Deah, Yusor, and Razan, and the way it was immediately described as a parking dispute, that’s what really set me off,” Allam said. “Three of our brightest and best examples of what it means to be a proud Muslim American have been murdered in the most brutal manner and it has simply been cast aside as a parking dispute and played down.”
“We cannot sit idly by, get involved in politics and speak out, because politics affects our lives every day. If we don’t talk and share our own stories, someone else will write it for us, ”she added.
Allam, who had grown up in an apolitical family, entered politics. In December 2015, she turned down a job at a tech company and began working with Bernie Sanders’ campaign during her Democratic nomination contest. Allam’s first stop was South Carolina, an experience she said was a reality check as a Muslim woman in politics in the South.
While door-to-door in small towns in South Carolina, people told her they had never met a Muslim before. People were looking at her. Some conversations have become personal and hostile. During one incident, a man brandished a gun at her, forcing her to run towards his car in fear.
“I obviously had a lot of factors against me. I was wearing a hijab. I am brown. I am here for the Socialist Democratic candidates, ”she declared. “It was really scary.”
Allam moved to Queens, New York for a month before moving to her home state in 2016. The following year, in January 2017, she was elected Third Vice President of the Carolina Democratic Party. North and became the first Muslim to join the Executive Board, where she focused on educating communities of color and religious minority groups. A year later, she was appointed to Durham Mayor’s Council for Women. And in 2020, she won a seat on the County Durham Commissioners’ Council, making her the state’s first elected Muslim woman.
But as Allam rose in local and state politics, Islamophobia was still there. Her social media pages were inundated with anti-Muslim posts, telling her to go back to where she came from or calling her a “rag head” because of her hijab.
“When I was running for the county commission, there were still people in Durham who hated me. I was constantly getting messages from people all over the state and even other countries, ”Allam said. “As soon as they saw a Muslim running, they thought, this is our punching bag.”
“I’m young. I’m a person of color. I’m an immigrant, I’m a Muslim. All of these things open me up to attack.
– County Durham Commissioner Nida Allam
Allam’s experience is not uncommon. In 2018, when nearly 90 Muslims ran for public office across the country as part of the “Muslim Blue Wave,” there was an increase in anti-Muslim hatred in political campaigns. Candidates described as being targeted by an attack of anti-Muslim sectarianism, including smear campaigns and harassment. Right-wing websites have falsely accused Muslim candidates of having links to terrorism and extremism and questioned their loyalty to the American public for the tactics still used against Omar and Tlaib.
“As a woman you are the target of everything, but it shouldn’t be. Being the first Muslim woman is also important for me to make sure it is easier for the next generation and for the next woman, ”Allam said. “I’m young. I’m a person of color. I’m an immigrant, I’m a Muslim. All of these things open me up to attacks that honestly no other candidate in this race is going to be attacked at this level.
But Allam says she is ready and hopes voters see her credentials in state politics as a testament to issues close to her heart, including the defense of Medicaid for All, the Green New Deal, reform of the state. policing and expanding reproductive rights protections.
The primary does not take place until March 8, 2022 and candidates will apply in December. On Tuesday, only one other candidate, State Senator Wiley Nickel, was announcement an intention to run for the seat. Allam said his campaign raised $ 115,000 in pledged donations within 24 hours of his announcement.
Even though she doesn’t win, Allam said she hopes her candidacy will make it easier for the next Muslim woman to decide to run for a congressional seat in the South.
“One of the things I have been told constantly throughout my political career has been to wait my turn,” Allam said. “But now, as an elected person, who has been organizing for years, I have realized that no one has the right to tell you when it is your turn. If you strive and care about your community, it’s your turn to step in and lead.
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