Monday, February 18, 2019

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans Celebrate Candidates' Election Wins

Last Saturday, Pakistani-American community joined Javed Ellahie and Sabina Zafar in celebrating their recent election victories in city council elections in San Francisco Bay Area which includes Silicon Valley. Ellahie has been elected to Monte Sereno City Council while Sabina Zafar won a seat on San Ramon City Council in November 2018 elections. The event was organized by American Pakistani Political Action Committee (APPAC) at Fremont Marriott. Dr. Naveed Sherwani who is a prominent Pakistani-American tech entrepreneur and NED University alumnus from Karachi, served as the master of ceremonies. Speeches by Ellahie, Zafar and several other local elected officials, including Fremont Mayor Lily Mei and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, were followed by dinner. After-dinner entertainment included stand-up comedy by Javed Ellahie's son Faraz Ozel, a popular comedian based in Southern California.

Javed Ellahie

Javed and Sabina narrated their experience of running campaigns for public office. Both faced and overcame challenges as outsiders because of their lack of experience and name recognition.

View of Dinner Attendees at APPAC Dinner

Javed Ellahie talked about how candidates' names affect their ability to win votes. In his case, people with familiar western names won votes in spite of lack of effort. One white candidate dropped out and still got many votes. Javed ran in a small city where he could knock on doors to do a lot of one-on-one campaigning to ask for votes personally. His efforts paid off. He thanked several Pakistani-American families living in Monte Sereno who contributed both time and money to his campaign.

Sabina Zafar
Sabina Zafar credited Emerge California with encouraging her to run and eventually win an election. Zafar, being a Muslim woman of color, was picked by Emerge California as part of their effort in 2018 to diversify their candidates pool.  Emerge California inspires and recruits women to run for public offices and trains them to acquire skills to win. San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf are both Emerge California graduates.

L to R: Javed Ellahie, Yasmeen Haq, Riaz Haq, Sabina Zafar

The event drew hundreds of Pakistani-American residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, I saw several Pakistani attendees who had traveled from various cities in Pakistan to attend 7th Annual StartUp Grind Global Conference being held in Silicon Valley. Among the Pakistani delegates to the conference is Rehan Allahwala from Karachi. He showed me a plan for building a cyber city for which he has acquired several hundred acres of land near Karachi.  I also met Naeem Asghar, a journalist working for Express News and covering Pakistani participation in StartUp Grind.  Earlier in the week, I met Shahjhan Chaudhry, Director of National Incubation Center located on NED University Campus grounds in Karachi, who is also attending StartUp Grind Conference.

L to R: Riaz Haq, Faraz Darvesh, Javed Ellahie, Sabahat Ashraf

They told me there are about 40 delegates from Pakistan attending the StartUp Grind global technology conference as part of Pak-US Technology Exchange Program. The delegates will get an opportunity to have first hand visits of tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple and Uber; technology incubators/accelerators like Y-Combinator, TechStars, StartX and Founder Institute; prestigious organizations like Stanford University, Draper University and more. They will participate in exclusive events organized by partner organizations inducing meetups, workshops and office hours with Pakistani diaspora in Silicon Valley.

Javed Ellahie and Sabina Zafar
Javed Ellahie and Sabina Zafar are among 5 American Muslims elected to local office in the San Francisco Bay Area in this year's elections. It's a sign American voters are ready for diverse leadership despite troubling increases in hate crimes nationwide, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations. Across America, there are 55 American Muslim candidates who won election to public offices, 11 of them in California, according to CAIR. Two Muslim American women, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, were elected to the United States Congress this year.

Pakistani-Americans are the largest foreign-born Muslim group in San Francisco Bay Area that includes Silicon Valley, according to a 2013 study. The study was commissioned by the One Nation Bay Area Project, a civic engagement program supported by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, Marin Community Foundation and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.

Javed Ellahie and Sabina Zafar with Stand-up Comedian Faraz Ozel 

Overall, US-born Muslims make up the largest percentage at 34% of all Muslims in the Bay Area, followed by 14% born in Pakistan, 11% in Afghanistan, 10% in India, 3% in Egypt and 2% each in Iran, Jordan, Palestine and Yemen.

There are 35,000 Pakistani-born Muslims in San Francisco Bay Area,  or 14% of the 250,000 Muslims who call the Bay Area home, according to the 2013 study. Bay Area Muslim community constitutes 3.5 percent of the area’s total population and is one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in the country.

As of 2013, South Asian Muslims, including Pakistanis, have the highest income levels, with nearly half (49%) of them having a household income above $100,000. In comparison, those groups with the lowest proportion of household incomes above $100,000 were Hispanic Muslims (15%), Afghans (10%), and African American Muslims (10%).

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Muslim-Americans in San Francisco Bay Area

The Trump Phenomenon

Islamophobia in America

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

Pakistani-American Leads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

Silicon Valley Pakistanis Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Karachi-born Triple Oscar Winning Graphics Artist

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fire-eye Goes Public

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for highlighting the rising threat to our community. Good to see all the community leaders coming together to help us be safe.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani-American Saud Anwar elected state senator in #American state of #Connecticut. Saud Anwar won easily in what could have been a much closer election. via @nbcconnecticut

Senate Democrats in Connecticut declared victory in two out of three state Senate races Tuesday night, with an upset in the 6th District giving Republicans another voice in the assembly.

The Special Election was held to fill three vacant state Senate seats and two vacant House of Representatives seats after those lawmakers resigned in order to accept jobs in the new Lamont administration.

Democrats Derek Slap won the 5th District seat and Saud Anwar the 3rd District, while Rick Lopes lost to Gennaro Bizzarro in New Britain. Democrats still control the Senate with a comfortable 22-14 majority.

While the Bizzarro victory was a huge upset, the Saud Anwar victory was a romp in what could have been a much closer election. A source told NBC Connecticut’s Max Reiss the margin was 58 percent to 41 percent.

Democrat Anthony Nolan claimed victory in the race for the 39th House District, with Republican Joseph Zullo taking East Haven's 99th District seat.

Riaz Haq said...

Two #Pakistani #American #Muslim #women elected to city councils in #WashingtonState. Varsha Khan in #Redmond City Council and Zahra Roach in #Pasco City Council.

Two very different communities in Washington state are on the verge of making history following this year's general election.

Across Lake Washington from Seattle, in the suburb of Redmond, Varisha Khan is holding on to a narrow lead in her race for a seat on the Redmond City Council. Across the state, in the Tri-Cities town of Pasco, meanwhile, Zahra Roach has clinched a seat on that city’s council.

According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, while a Muslim man has been elected before — Zak Idan in 2017 to the Tukwila City Council — Khan and Roach are, if current results hold, believed to be the first two Muslim women elected to public office in the state. Another Muslim woman, Amina Ahmed, who tragically died in a car crash last year, had been appointed, but not elected, to the SeaTac City Council.

“I think both races have shown the power of communities of color becoming more and more civically engaged,” said Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR Washington.

According to a report on American Muslims in public office, from 2016 to 2019 approximately 138 Muslims have been elected to office nationwide. Last year, U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. This year alone, at least 33 Muslim candidates won elections in local and statewide races across the country, said Jessica Schreindl, communications coordinator for CAIR-WA.

Khan, 24, who trailed her opponent in early returns, took the lead over three-term incumbent Hank Myers late last week. She currently leads him by 47 votes. Khan would need to lead by 65 votes or more by Nov. 26, when the votes are certified, to be out of recount range, said King County Elections communications officer Halei Watkins. Khan graduated from the University of Washington in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science. If elected, she would also be the youngest member serving on the Redmond City Council.

When asked about her decision to run at such a young age, Khan said she hoped to help start building a bench of diverse candidates to serve locally and thought, “Why not here, why not now?”

While others warned her that Redmond was not ready for its first female Muslim candidate, Khan said she “felt like this is the year that we have a chance to really step up.”

Khan admits she also “knew it would be an uphill battle.”

“I knew it would be a challenge,” Khan said in a telephone interview while noting that her aim was to work three times harder than her opponent, who benefited from more name recognition.

With regard to faith, Khan, who wears a hijab, said questions about Islam were a bigger factor at the beginning of her race.

Khan said she also attracted media attention from conservative blogs and radio programs like the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH in Seattle and John Carlson’s show on KVI (Carlson is a Crosscut contributor). The conservative blog “Shift” attempted to disparage Khan by comparing her to Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and other socialists, like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. The blog referred to Khan as an extremist and anti-Semite. The conservative media outlets also called out Khan for her association with Linda Sarsour, a Muslim and former leader of the Women’s March on Washington, who along with two others, stepped down after charges of anti-Semitism.

Riaz Haq said...

Muslims win office in US municipal elections in 2021

In Dearborn, Michigan, where the mayor once promised to do something about the city’s “Arab problem,” Abdullah Hammoud, a Lebanese American Muslim, was elected this month to fill that post.

In New York, Bangladeshi American Shahana Hanif became the first Muslim woman on the City Council. Boston, where Muslims number fewer than 80,000, also got its first Muslim member of the City Council.

Every election cycle in recent years seems to see historic firsts for Muslim Americans. This year, three years after the first Muslim women were elected to Congress, successful campaigns in Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania put Muslims in key local offices.

Hammoud is one of three newly elected Arab American Muslim mayors in the Detroit suburbs.

“Never shy away from who you are,” said Hammoud, who currently sits on the state Legislature in Lansing. “Be proud of your name, be comfortable in your identity, because it’ll take you places if you work hard, you’re passionate and you inspire people.”

In Dearborn Heights, just west of Dearborn, the newly elected Lebanese-born mayor, Bill Bazzi, has held the post since last year, when he was appointed to the position.

In Hamtramck, Amer Ghalib, an immigrant from Yemen, defeated Karen Majewski to become the first non-Catholic and non-Polish mayor in the city’s history.

Another Yemeni American, Amira Muflahi, became the first Muslim elected to the Lackawanna City Council, in upstate New York.

Election Day also saw two Muslims win office in New Jersey. Shama Haider, a former Tenafly councilwoman, become the first Muslim elected to the state Legislature. Haider was an opponent of Pakistan’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and at one point served as a secretary for the first lady of Pakistan, Begum Nusrat Bhutto. Haider immigrated to the United States in 1977. Haider has vowed that she doesn’t want to be known as the “token Muslim woman” in the Legislature but, rather as an effective legislator.

Another Pakistani American, Muhammad Umar, became the first Muslim elected to the Galloway Township, New Jersey, council.

New Jersey currently has more Muslim officials than any other state. Haider’s victory is all the more notable following the election night upset of the state’s Senate president, Steve Sweeney, by little-known Republican challenger Edward Durr.

In a 2019 tweet, Durr called Islam a “cult of hate” and referred to those who follow “muslim teachings” as fools. Durr also drew criticism for social media posts comparing COVID-19 vaccination efforts to the Holocaust. He has since apologized.

In Boston, Tania Fernandes Anderson gained her council seat by defeating Roy Owens, who had relied heavily on anti-Muslim rhetoric in his campaign.


Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Etel Haxhiaj, an Albanian American, became the first Muslim elected to the Worcester City Council. Prior to last week’s election, one local media outlet reported that only three Muslim s had ever been elected to office in the state.

In Pennsylvania, Taiba Sultana, an immigrant from Pakistan, won a seat on the Easton City Council. Azrin Awal, a Bangladeshi American immigrant, became the first Muslim elected to the Duluth City Council in Minnesota.

While many of the new Muslim officials are the product of natural cycles of maturing immigrant communities and civic engagement, others continue to be inspired by discrimination and anti-Muslim bias.

In the aftermath of last week’s historic slate of Muslim electoral victories, a Durham, North Carolina, county commissioner announced her intention to run for Congress. Nida Allam was friends with the three Muslims killed in the 2015 Chapel Hill slayings.