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Detroit Native, Abdul El-Sayed, Runs to Be the First United States Muslim Governor

posted on: Jul 18, 2018

By: Udochi Esomonu/Arab America Contributing Writer

In 2017, Abdul El-Sayed officially announced his run for the Democratic nominee for the governor of Michigan. If elected the governor of Michigan, he will become the first Muslim governor in the history of the United States. El-Sayed ‘s choice to run has not only sparked a larger conversation but has expanded the involvement of Muslims in the American political sphere. 

El-Sayed’s campaign so far has focused immensely on the strengthening of the local communities, the public school system, the school districts, and the overall strengthening of the voices of all Michigan citizens, as opposed to just a select few. While his efforts work to strengthen, he also works to dismantle the many barriers that have permitted long-lived discrimination towards a variety of communities and citizens of the state.

El-Sayed is of Egyptian-American descent, his parents are both natives of Egypt. He was born and raised in Michigan and grew up in the Detroit area. Growing up, El-Sayed was surrounded by the diversity that Michigan has always had to offer. In school, El-Sayed was always involved, being captains for sports teams, and a Rhodes Scholar, with a doctorate from Oxford University and a medical degree from Columbia University. 

His family, who emigrated from Egypt to the United States exemplify the many values that have geared his run so far and his plan for Michigan: diversity and increased opportunity for all. Having grown up in such a diverse environment, he became aware of the necessity to get all types of people involved. Being around working immigrants his entire lift, El-Sayed understands the importance behind valuing each and every community and what they have to offer. 

“This movement is about a politics of purpose. I am driven by a core belief in Michigan’s people – our potential and the promise of our future”, El-Sayed exclaimed on his official Facebook page as he explained his passion behind his choice to run for governor. He seeks to create the kinds of opportunities that empower people to dream for a better future.

El-Sayed has had his fair share of involvement in the decision-making process in the state of Michigan. In 2015, at the age of 30, he was appointed to the position of Health Officer and Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department, making him the youngest person to ever fill the position. As the Health director, he was responsible for the health and safety of over 670,000 citizens of the city of Detroit. While fulfilling the role of the position, he was responsible for refueling the Detroit Health Department shortly after the City of Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy in 2013.

Under this role, in the wake of the Flint Michigan water crisis, he was responsible for ensuring that the water in Detroit schools is consistently tested for traces of lead. Overall, under the role, he worked towards ensuring access to proper resources to promote citizens’ health, championed government transparency and accountability, and the overall reduction and alleviation of poverty.

Not only is he a policymaker, but he is also an educator, and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. While at Columbia University, he has been responsible for creating and teaching the Mailman School’s first-ever course on systems science and population health.

El-Sayed, while on the campaign trail, has vowed to not accept any campaign donations from corporations and has successfully raised over $2M merely from individual donations. He has received a great deal of support from a variety of politicians, political figures, organizations, activists, and public servants, some of them, to name a few, Congressman Ro Khanna, civil rights activist, Democratic congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The People for Bernie Sanders, and Democracy for America.

His focus thus far in his campaign has been on bringing to light the many experiences, stories, and backgrounds of the citizens who make Michigan what it is today; it is to illuminate the humanity of the marginalized, the unsupported, and the many of those Michigan citizens who have been long deprived of their humanity.