Hayward City Council Member Aisha Wahab Becomes First Muslim and Afghan American Elected to California State Senate
HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) — Few can say they were the first.
“I sincerely believe that in California it was about time. However, at the same time, it’s wonderful to see so many different members of the community excited,” said Aisha Wahab.
Wahab is heading to the California State Senate as the first ever Muslim and first Afghan American elected to that body. She will represent District 10, which includes parts of Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
“I hope to bring my lived experiences to the policies that we develop, to be more inclusive, to think about the most vulnerable members of the community. It’s always been part of my policies, even in the town of Hayward,” says Wahab, who is currently a member of Hayward City Council, and where she first entered politics.
She was born in New York. Her father was brutally murdered. Her mother died when she was young. Aisha grew up in foster care until she and her sister were adopted by an Afghan family in Fremont, home to one of the largest Afghan communities in the United States.
Many Afghan community activists, like immigration lawyer Spojmie Nasiri, say Wahab’s victory is a historic moment for Afghan Americans.
“She has been elected to one of the highest offices, the first Afghan American. It’s pride! It’s joy! And I think it’s long overdue,” says Nasiri, an attorney in immigration law in Pleasanton.
Wahab has received huge endorsements from California political heavyweights like State Attorney General Rob Bonta and Treasurer Fiona Ma, as well as Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club and labor groups. .
But the victory was not easy. Wahab says he was the victim of racist and Islamophobic attacks, even threats of rape and death.
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“(There was) a lot of dog whistling in the race. A lot of racism, sexism, ageism, etc., I saw it in this race,” says Wahab.
Lissette Poole, a lecturer at Cal State University East Bay, says Wahab brings layers of diversity, which is important in states like California. But Poole adds that Wahab, who is in his early 30s, is young. She says that’s important too.
“She represents youth, that’s number one. And she represents a dynamic, progressive attitude towards problem solving,” Poole said.
Wahab says she was raised to put community first, which led to politics. In Sacramento, Wahab, who has an MBA, says she will prioritize affordable housing, public safety and small businesses.
“I just felt that with the politics that I saw, politics influence these nonprofits, politics influence your community. And the more I learned about it, the more I got involved” , says Wahab.
That path now leads to Sacramento, where she will be sworn in as a senator in December.
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