When the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January, there will be four Muslim legislators among its ranks, one of the largest Muslim legislative delegations in the nation — and all of them will be from Gwinnett County.
Gwinnett voters re-elected state Sen. Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, who became the first Muslim elected to serve in the General Assembly in 2018, but they also made history in three other legislative races.
These include the election of Nabilah Islam, who will join Rahman in the Senate and become the first Muslim woman elected to that chamber, as well as Ruwa Romman and Farooq Mughal, who will be the first Muslim members of the Georgia House of Representatives.
It could end up being the second largest Muslim delegation in the nation, behind only Minnesota, which the Council on American-Islamic Relations projected would have five Muslim state legislators after this election.
“When you look at the American Muslim community in Georgia, we live in the south and we elected four people — one was re-elected and three were elected,” Mughal said on Wednesday. “That’s huge.”
Rahman, who was unopposed on Tuesday, will represent Senate District 5 while Islam will represent Senate District 7, Romman will represent House District 97 and Mughal will represent House District 105. They are all Democrats.
Islam, a 32-year-old who will also be the youngest woman ever elected to the state Senate, defeated Republican candidate Josh McKay by capturing 52.82% of the 61,730 votes cast in the Senate District 7 race.
“My father worked as a file clerk and my mother worked as a warehouse order puller,” Islam said in a statement from her campaign. “They immigrated here from Bangladesh and chose Gwinnett to give me a brighter future.
“Now, I’m Georgia’s youngest woman state senator. That’s what the American dream is supposed to be about, and I’m going to fight to make that dream a reality for every child in Georgia.”
Meanwhile, Romman — who is also the first Palestinian elected to any office in Georgia — defeated Republican candidate John Chan by capturing 57.68% of the 18,255 votes cast in the House District 97 race.
“It is definitely huge what we did in Gwinnett,” Romman said. “There is a concentrated Muslim population here that is becoming more and more active as a result, frankly, of years of investment.”
Romman pointed to Aisha Yaqoob, who ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat in Gwinnett in 2018, as part of the groundwork for election victories that are now paying off. Although Yaqoob was not successful in her efforts to get elected, she went on efforts to engage Muslim voters in Georgia.
“Aisha Yaqoob ran here two cycles ago and then she started the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, which I was an organizer, and now, to me personally, I feel like the fruits of that labor, you’re starting to seem them come to fruition,” Romman said.
And, Fughal, who is a Pakastani-American, defeated Republican candidate Sandy Donatucci in the House District 105 race by capturing 51.72% of the 20,290 votes cast in that race.
“It’s the acceptance of how things are changing in Gwinnett, and Georgia and America,” Mughal said. “We’re comfortable now with people of different faiths. People are now voting more and more on ideology than what you look like.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Georgia Chapter congratulated the quartet on their elections on Wednesday.
“Once again, the Georgia Muslim community have made their voices heard,” CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Murtaza Khwaja said in a statement. “They were part of record early voting turnout in the face of suppressive legislation like (Senate Bill) 202 to bring about the historic election of the first Muslim women to the Georgia state House and Senate.
“In addition to the two Muslim women, Georgia Muslims also elected the first Muslim man to the state House and ensured that our next state legislature looks more like us.”
Mughal said he would not be surprised to see more Muslims sign up to run for elected office in Georgia in the future in light of this years elections.
“I think from here on, it’s going to expand,” Mughal said of the number of Muslims holding public office in Georgia. “Two years, four years from now, you’ll see more American Muslims being comfortable in the public eye.”
This year’s wins by Muslim candidates did not come without facing some anti-Muslim bias, however. The Gwinnett Republican Party hosted an author who has history of anti-Muslim rhetoric earlier this year and Romman was the target of flyers that attempted to portray her as a terrorist.
Romman said she saw the results in her race, in particular, as a pushback against the rhetoric, however.
“Something we should really take away from this election cycle is my district rejected hate resoundingly,” she said. “I understand this is meant to be a ‘Blue’ district, but at the same time, our margin was frankly higher than we expected during a pretty tough year for Democrats.
“It does give me some hope that so many people saw hateful messaging about me, that wasn’t true, and their first reaction was rejecting it, asking me about it and checking it for themselves.”
In addition to broadening the number of Muslims serving in the General Assembly, the re-election of Rahman and the elections of Islam and Mughal are part of a growing number of people from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community who are serving in the Gwinnett Legislative Delegation.
Starting in January, six seats in Gwinnett’s 30-seat legislative delegation will be held by members of the AAPI community.
Democrats Sam Park and Marvin Lim won re-election on Tuesday. Lim was unopposed in his re-election bid in House District 98. Meanwhile, Park defeated Republican Hai Cao in the House District 107 race by capturing 68.22% of the 13,813 votes cast.
And, Soo Hong, a Republican, defeated Democratic Party candidate Ernie Anaya in the House District 103 race by getting 61.4% of the 21,609 votes cast in the race.
In all, Democrats won 20 of the 30 legislative races in Gwinnett while Republicans won the remaining 10 seats. Asian-Americans, Latinos and Blacks will hold 20 of the seats in the delegation.
The other legislative races in Gwinnett County played out as follows:
Senate District 9: State Sen. Nikki Merritt was re-elected without opposition.
Senate District 40: State Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, defeated Republican Austin McDonald with 61.53% of the 64,609 votes cast.
Senate District 41: State Sen. Kim Jackson, D-Stone Mountain, defeated Republican Jayre Jones with 82.14% of the 62,586 votes cast.
Senate District 45: State Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, defeated Democrat Matielyn Jones with 61.3% of the 67,517 votes cast.
Senate District 46: State Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, defeated Democrat Andrew Ferguson with 64.04% of the 75,791 votes cast.
Senate District 48: Republican Shawn Still defeated Democrat Josh Uddin with 56.74% of the 73,025 votes cast.
Senate District 55: State Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, was re-elected without opposition.
House District 30: Republican Derrick McCollum defeated Democrat Kim Floria with 75.74% of the 25,378 votes cast.
House District 48: Republican Scott Hilton defeated state Rep. Mary Robichaux, D-Roswell, with 54.31% of the 26,754 votes cast.
House District 88: State Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, defeated Republican William Park Freeman with 82.41% of the 20,486 votes cast.
House District 94: State Rep. Karen Bennett, D-Stone Mountain, was re-elected without opposition.
House District 95: State Rep. Dar’Shun Kendrick, D-Lithonia, defeated Republican Dexter Dawston with 79.07% of the 22,803 votes cast.
House District 96: State Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, defeated Republican Daelen Lowry with 65.56% of the 11,131 votes cast.
House District 99: Republican Matt Reeves defeated Democrat Om Duggal with 54.84% of the 20,993 votes cast.
House District 100: State Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, defeated Democrat Louisa Shell Jackson with 64.82% of the 23,147 votes cast.
House District 101: State Rep. Gregg Kennard, D-Lawrenceville, defeated Republican Zach Procter with 55.24% of the 19,304 votes cast.
House District 102: Democrat Gabe Okoye defeated Republican Wesley Harding with 64.59% of the 16,753 votes cast.
House District 104: State Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, defeated Democrat Patrick Reinert with 65.88% of the 21,497 votes cast.
House District 106: State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, D-Snellville, defeated Republican Preston Wren with 59.25% of the 22,172 votes cast.
House District 108: State Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, defeated Johnny Crist with 52.1% of the 21,384 votes cast.
House District 109: State Rep. Dewey McClain, D-Lawrenceville, was re-elected without opposition.
House District 110: Democrat Segun Adeyina won without opposition.
House District 111: Republican Rey Martinez defeated Democrat Ryan Cox with 65.19% of the 24,650 votes cast.