Source: The Washington Post
Since Gaithersburg software engineer Saqib Ali was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates this month, he has been flooded with calls and e-mails from across the country asking: How'd you do it?
The calls come from American Muslims like Ali, who, longtime political watchers and Muslim activists in the area say, is the first Muslim elected to a statewide -- or districtwide -- office in Maryland, Virginia or the District.
Although the 31-year-old made little of his faith during the campaign -- in fact, he bucked those who said he should put it on his campaign literature -- he is part of a concerted march of Muslims into civic and political life. His campaign was part of a push that began after Sept. 11, 2001, with worries about civil liberties and immigration policy and has blossomed this year.
Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. In the D.C. area, eight Muslims ran for office in Maryland this year, significantly more than in previous years, although only Ali won. And initial polling data and anecdotal evidence suggest that significantly more Muslims in Virginia registered and voted this month than in previous elections.
According to data gathered by the Muslim American Society and the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, the number of Virginia Muslims who voted was up 13 percent from 2005. The vast majority of the estimated 51,000 Muslims who cast ballots in Virginia voted for Democrats.