Tuesday’s primary features N.J.‘s 1st Muslim woman candidate for Congress

Posted Jul 03, 2020

Like many challengers to sitting House Democrats in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, writer Amani Al-Khatahtbeh supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and wants to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What makes her different is that she is the first Muslim woman to run for Congress from New Jersey, according to Jetpac, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based group that trains American Muslims to run for public office and become active in politics.

Al-Khatahtbeh is one of two progressive Democrats challenging Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. in New Jersey’s 6th District. Also running is Russ Cirincione, a housing lawyer with the New York state government, who is on a slate of supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

At a time when President Donald Trump ran on a platform of banning Muslims from entering the country and went all the way to the Supreme Court to impose restrictions on visitors from several Muslim majority nations, Al-Khatahtbeh said her candidacy was “a moral obligation to this moment in time.”

“It’s reclaiming our place here,” she said. “We need more representation at the table. I grew up with my family’s Arabic satellite at home. Most kids are saying, ‘I want to be lawyer, I want to be a doctor.' The earliest notion of what I wanted to do was, ‘I said to myself, I want to stop a war from happening one day.‘”

In a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, 74% of Muslim Americans said Trump was unfriendly towards them, with only 12% saying he was friendly.

Al-Khatahtbeh celebrated her 28th birthday on the campaign trail. She grew up East Brunswick, graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science, and now lives in New Brunswick. She is the founder of the blog MuslimGirl.com and author of the book Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age.

She said she took inspiration from the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. She has talked to both of them during the campaign, considers them mentors, and it was “because of their fearlessness and support that I felt the courage to run for Congress.”

“I always knew that I wanted to run for public office one day but I don’t think I ever even imagined running this young,” she said. “I felt empowered to do so because now we are breaking those glass ceilings.”

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