Thursday, March 24, 2011

Project M featured in CNN: For Muslim politicians, running for office is the American way

By Assia Boundaoui, Special to CNN

March 24, 2011

Chicago (CNN) -- Rola Othman sits at her dining room table littered with papers, poring over school board minutes.

She's anxiously preparing to speak at the Reavis High School District 220 board meeting in Chicago's southwest suburbs, where 11 teachers are about to be laid off.

And she has had enough.

Othman, a mother of two, is pursuing a doctorate in education. She says that when her son's school cut Advanced Placement classes and slashed the budget for academic programming, it was time to act.

"I see my kid's school going in the opposite direction, it's kind of scary. You can only make calls for so long," she said. "You need to effect change by being in the place to make decisions."

For Othman, that means running for the school board in her hometown of Burbank, Illinois. If elected, she would become the only Muslim American school board member in Illinois.

Stepping up for elective office

Othman is one of seven Muslim Americans running in Chicago-area municipal elections April 5. Five of the seven candidates are women, and all are the first Muslims to run for a seat in their respective races.

Across the country, dozens of Muslims have actively engaged in the American political process, running for -- and winning -- elected offices. From a mayor in New Jersey; to state representatives in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Maryland and Missouri; to congressmen in Minnesota and Indiana, American politicians from the Muslim faith are increasingly in political positions.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, was elected in 2006 and is one of two Muslim Americans in Congress. (The other is Indiana's Andre Carson, a Democrat elected in 2008.) Ellison broke down in tears this month during hearings investigating the possible radicalization of Muslims in America, sponsored by Republican Rep. Peter King of New York.

"We've seen the consequences of anti-Muslim hate," Ellison explained as he wept at the hearings. "The best defense against extreme ideologies is social inclusion and civic engagement."


Link to full article here

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