Ruwa Romman: First Muslim and Palestinian woman elected to Georgia state House



CNN

Ruva Roman remembers the sadness when she saw an 8-year-old girl sitting in the back of a school bus pointing at her classmates and letting out a devilish laugh.

“There’s a bomb lab,” they quipped in another attempt to brand his family as terrorists.

On Tuesday, the same girl – now a 29-year-old community organizer – made history as the first prominent Muslim woman elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, and the first Palestinian-American elected to any state office. .

After 10 months of tireless campaigning, the Democrat said he is eager to begin representing the people of District 97, which includes Lake Berkeley, and parts of Duluth, Norcross, and Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County.

As an immigrant, the granddaughter of Palestinian refugees, and a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, the path to political office has not been easy, especially in the ultra-Christian and conservative South.

“I could write chapters about what I’ve been through,” Roman told CNN, listing the many ways he’s faced prejudice or discrimination.

“Each time I was ‘randomly’ picked by the TSA, teachers put me in a position where I had to defend Islam and Muslims in classrooms that were being taught wrong things about me and my identity. … It colored my whole life.”

But those hardships only fueled her passion for civic engagement, especially in underserved communities, Roman said.

“Who I am has really taught me to look out for the most marginalized because they are the people who don’t have the resources or the time to spend in the halls of political institutions to get the help they need,” she said. can ask,” he said.

Roman began working with the Georgia Muslim Voter Project in 2015 to increase voter turnout among Native Muslim Americans. He also helped establish a state chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

Soon, Roman began working with the wider community. Her website boasts: “Roa has volunteered to help turn Georgia blue every election cycle since 2014.”

He said his main focus is “bringing public services back into politics,” which he says will increase access to health care, close economic opportunity gaps, protect voting rights, and save people’s lives. Wally intends to do this by ensuring access to care. Abortion

“I think a lot of people ignore state legislators because they think they’re local and don’t have a lot of influence, not realizing that state legislators have the most direct influence over them,” Roman said. has an impact,” Roman said. “Every law that has made us mad or happy started somewhere in the state legislature.”

Roman said she always wanted to influence the political process, but never thought she would become a politician.

The decision to run for office came after attending a Georgia Muslim Voter Project training session for women from historically marginalized communities, where a journalist covering the event asked if she wanted to run for office. Want to contest elections.

“I told her no, I don’t think so, and she wrote a beautiful piece about Muslim women in Georgia, but she started it with ‘Rova Roman is considering a run for office,'” And I wasn’t doing that.” Roman explained. “But when it came out, the community saw it and the response was overwhelmingly positive and everyone kept telling me to do it.”

Two weeks later, Roman and a group of volunteers began a campaign.

Rua Roman and her campaign volunteers.

He was surrounded by family, friends and community members rooting for his success. Together, they knocked on 15,000 doors, sent 75,000 texts, and made 8,000 phone calls.

He said his Republican opponent, John Chen, did not compete fairly.

“My opponent used anti-Muslim rhetoric against me, and said I had links to terrorism, at one point supporting an ad that called me a terrorist plant,” he said. said

Flyers supporting Chan’s candidacy Clarified that it is related to terrorist organizations.

China did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

She said it was the same type of bullying Roman faced as a schoolgirl. Only this time, she wasn’t alone. Thousands of people were behind him.

“What was incredible is that people in my district messaged me and said, ‘This is unacceptable. How can we help? How can we get involved? How can we support you?’ can?’ And it was an incredible moment for me,” she said.

Representative-elect Rua Roman at the Georgia State Capitol for her new member orientation.

It was also ironic, Roman added, because his passion for community and social justice is rooted in his faith: “Justice is a central tenant of Islam,” he pointed out. “It inspires me to be kind to others, take care of my neighbors and protect the underprivileged.”

It is also rooted in his family’s experience as Palestinian refugees, whom he said were expelled from their homeland by Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

“My Palestinian identity has instilled in me a focus on justice and caring for others,” Roman said. “Everyone deserves to live with dignity. I hope Palestinians everywhere see this as proof that persistence and hard work can make history.”

“Maybe I don’t have much power over foreign policy, but I really hope that I can at least remind people that the Palestinians are not a nuisance, or a terrorist, or some other scary concept that society has created,” he added. has cast upon us.” “We are real people with real dreams.”

Roman joins three other Muslim Americans elected to state and local office in Georgia this election cycle, according to the Georgia Muslim Voter Project.

The other three candidates, all Democrats, are Nabila Islam, the first Muslim woman elected to the Georgia State Senate, Sheikh Rehman, elected to the Georgia State Senate, and Farooq Mughal, elected to the Georgia State House.

“We’ve had Muslim representation at the state level in Georgia, but this win represents Georgia’s Muslims more than ever because we now have more gender and ethnic representation of Muslims,” ​​the group’s executive director, Shafina Khabani, told CNN. Is.” “Not only will we have a representation that looks like us and aligns with our values, but we will have the opportunity to advocate and influence policies that directly affect our communities.”

“Diversity in political representation means better laws, more inclusive leadership, and welcoming policies for all Georgians,” he said.

More than anything, Roman hopes his election points to a future free of hate and bigotry.

Roman added, “I think it shows that people have come to know that Muslims are part of this community and hopefully the tide of Islamophobia is starting to subside.”

Looking back on her childhood, Roman wishes she could tell that her little things would get better with time, and that one day she would make history not only in Georgia, but hopefully in the world. There will be a real difference.



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