Another glass ceiling has been thankfully shattered for Muslim women in American politics. Sadaf Jaffer was recently sworn in as mayor of Montgomery Township, New Jersey becoming, as Religion News Service, puts it, “the country’s first female Muslim mayor, first female Pakistani-American mayor and first female South Asian-American mayor. She might also be the first American mayor with a doctorate from Harvard who specializes in Islam, gender studies and South Asian history.” In short, she’s a woman of a lot of firsts!
Religion News Service recently interviewed Mayor Sadaf Jaffer and here are some snippets:
— I decided to run for public office because I didn’t see my values reflected in my elected officials. I’ve been a scholar and activist for some time. If you keep advocating to people who just don’t share your values, you eventually hit a wall. I also believe we shouldn’t ask others to do something we’re not willing to do ourselves. If I want people from diverse backgrounds to run for office, I should also be willing to do it myself.
— …I’ve also come to see the ways in which religion and culture have always been intertwined and I find much hope in how cosmopolitan societies have functioned in the past. They certainly weren’t perfect, but I see the Islamic past as one of great beauty and cultural efflorescence. That inspires me for the future.
— I think the greatest challenge we face in the United States right now is the fraying of our social fabric, so my background in arts, literature and cultural studies has proved especially useful in bringing people together. When an anti-Muslim bias crime happened in my town, I was able to tap into my experience teaching a course on South Asian-American literature and film to provide resources to government officials about Islamophobia as racism.
— I’m proud to be an example of what is possible for Muslim women in our political system. We stand on the shoulders of generations of activists who have made these opportunities possible.