Zainab Kahloon

Zainab Kahloon

2019 Undergraduate Fellow
Social Studies

Thesis title and description:
“Religion or Re-Election: How Muslim-Americans Running for Office Reconcile Their Islamic Values with their Political Decisions”

Ever since Trump’s election, Muslim politicians have been in the media spotlight, especially after Congresswomen Ilhan Omar’s and Rashida Tlaib’s historic elections. Their faith and Muslim identity have been the target of some media outlets painting them as fundamentalists or even insensitive to American tragedies like 9/11. Muslim American politicians play an additional role as the most prominent representatives of Muslims in America, especially if they hold a national office. This ‘reconciliation of values’ occurs not just with policy decisions, but also with their individual actions which then become assumed of all Muslim-Americans. For example, when Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib used the “f-word” to describe the impeachment of President Trump, several Muslim thought leaders took offense, claiming that she was not ‘representing Islam accurately’ in her actions. Although Congresswoman Tlaib was not elected to represent Muslim-Americans, both the media and the Muslim-American community treats her as if she does.

This project analyzes how Muslims who have run for office reconcile their personal Islamic beliefs with the decisions they make either during their campaigns or tenures in office. Through conducting 50 further interviews with publicly-identifying Muslim politicians and others involved in the Muslim political sphere (i.e. non-profit leaders, Muslim-community activists, Muslim-American scholarly authorities), I seek to explore the varying attitudes the Muslim-American political community has on the role of religion in politics and the potential contradictions that arrive with it.