Muslim Women Make History In Virginia Elections

November 6, 2019

Democrats Ghazala Hashmi, Abrar Omeish, Lisa Zargarpur and Buta Biberaj ― four Muslim women ― made history in Virginia’s elections on Tuesday.

In a surprise victory, Hashmi unseated incumbent Republican Glen Sturtevant for a state Senate seat; Omeish clinched one of three vacant seats on the Fairfax County School Board; Zargarpur was elected to the Prince William County School Board; and Biberaj, in a tight race, defeated Republican incumbent Nicole Wittmann to become Loudoun County’s new commonwealth’s attorney.

Hashmi is the first Muslim to be elected to the state Senate, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. (Two Muslim men ― Democrats Ibraheem Samirah and Sam Rasoul ― currently serve in Virginia’s General Assembly.)

Celebrating her win, Omeish said she was the youngest woman at age 24 and the first Libyan American to hold elected office in Virginia’s history. She also made claim to being the first Muslim woman to be elected in the state ― an honor she would share with Hashmi, Zargarpur and Biberaj.

All four were supported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The women’s victories were part of the blue wave that swept Virginia on Tuesday. Democrats successfully flipped both houses of the state legislature. The election has been described as a possible “watershed” moment for the once-conservative Southern state.

“Today we sent a message that the status quo is no longer accepted,” a victorious Hashmi wrote on Twitter.


Ghazala Hashmi@Hashmi4Va

Today we sent a message that the status quo is no longer accepted. Thank you all for your support and passion in helping me become the next state Senator for Virginia’s 10th District! I couldn’t be more honored to be apart of the change to come for Virginia.

Ghazala Hashmi@Hashmi4Va

This victory, is not mine alone. It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia, for all of you who felt that you haven’t had a voice and believed in me to be yours in the General Assembly.

Omeish, Karen Keys-Gamarra and Rachna Sizemore Heizer ― all Democrats ― won the three open seats on the Fairfax County School Board.

“Abrar’s campaign worked hard to elevate young voices and those of underserved and underrepresented communities, proactively reaching out to constituencies who have otherwise not been engaged by registering 1,500 new voters and training hundreds of new volunteers,” Omeish’s campaign said in a statement celebrating her winning an at-large seat.

“She strives towards facilitating a school system that believes fully in the potential of the leader in every child and believes that the investment in that child is worthwhile no matter their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status,” the campaign continued.

Abrar Omeish@AbrarOmeish

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Zargarpur, who converted to Islam more than two decades ago and whose family has long advocated for the Muslim community in Prince William County, clinched the Coles District seat on the county’s school board.

In Loudoun Couty, Biberaj, who won by a margin of 51% to 48%, was elected commonwealth’s attorney, making her the county’s top prosecutor.

Buta Biberaj@biberajbb

Running to bring justice reform to Loudoun was one of the most amazing experiences. I am humbled by all of the support and encouragement I received and will always be thankful to my family , friends, community and supporters. You will be made proud. 

Ken Biberaj@kenbiberaj

This says it all. Polls closed 20 min ago and @biberajbb is still at the precinct thanking voters who patiently waited in line to vote. The party can wait! Thanks to Loudoun residents for coming out in huge numbers today!!

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Omeish has talked in the past about the discrimination she’s faced and the challenges she’s had to overcome as a Muslim woman striving for elected office.

Speaking to HuffPost in May in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s public attacks on U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Omeish said she hadn’t anticipated the baseless “ignorance and animosity” she’d come up against.

“I underestimated how much diversity and being a minority for me has shaped how I think about others. So it surprised me to see how shameless people can be in how they behave or express themselves against me,” she said.

Earlier this year, Omeish made headlines after she was allegedly pepper-sprayed and forced to remove her headscarf during a routine traffic stop.

She told The Washington Post in June that she had committed a traffic violation ― turning right on a red light ― but said the officer used unnecessary force.

“It makes no logical sense to me that, within three minutes, an officer would have to pull mace and that it would escalate and devolve into everything it was that night, over a minor traffic violation,” she said.

A Fairfax County police spokeswoman told the Post that Omeish “actively resisted arrest.”

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‘I realized that I had an obligation to speak out.’ — Trump’s Muslim ban inspired @Hashmi4Va to run for office and she could become the first Muslim woman in the Virginia Senate

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“What triggered my panic was not so much the deliberate and callous way the administration sought to criminalize people and communities on the basis of their faith, but rather the casual ease with which we were now willing to accept — as legitimate legal action — this assault on our democratic values. And I had to wonder: do I, a Muslim American who has lived in this country for close to 50 years, have a home in this country any longer?” she wrote.

“I decided to run for the State Senate because in 400 years of the General Assembly — the oldest legislative body in America — Virginians have never elected a Muslim woman to office,” Hashmi continued. “I decided to run for the State Senate because if marginalized communities like mine don’t stand up for ourselves, we can’t expect others to do it for us.”

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Safiya Khalid became the first Somali American to be elected to the Lewiston City Council in Maine, and Nadia Mohamed became the first Muslim and Somali American to be elected to the St. Louis Park City Council in Minnesota.

CAIR National@CAIRNational

@CAIR, @Jetpac_Inc, @MPower_Change: 26 American Muslim Candidates Win in Nov. 5 Elections for Total of 34 #Muslims Elected in 2019 – #ElectionDay2019 #ElectionResults2019 #Election2019 @lsarsour 

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This story was updated to include the electoral wins of Lisa Zargarpur and Buta Biberaj.





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