‘The New Obama’: Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed, Michigan Candidate For Governor
The 33-year-old charismatic Muslim doctor is running for governor of Michigan and in the process trying to change US politics for more space — specially for the millenials, while espousing multiculturism, diversity and pluralism as a Democrat. The Guardian dubs him ‘the new Obama’.
May 5, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed, known as Abdul El-Sayed, is an Egyptian-born Muslim American physician, epidemiologist, public health expert, and candidate for governor of Michigan, running as a Democrat in a state Trump won in 2016. If he wins, he’ll become the first Muslim governor in U.S. history, and he doesn’t see the 10,000 votes that won Trump the state by as an insurmountable challenge.
Michigan has the unfortunate distinction of being a state that has gone from a paragon of the middle-class American Dream to near-bottom in almost every standard of living category. In 2015, it was rated dead last for government ethics and transparency, and Flint still doesn’t have clean drinking water after four years. The 33-year-old health expert and Rhodes scholar wants to change course.
El-Sayed’s background, like Michigan, is proudly varied. His father immigrated from Egypt in the 1970s, but he spent the majority of his life in the suburbs of Detroit, cheering for the Michigan Wolverines football team.
“I’m not running to be the first Muslim governor,” El-Sayed said in a phone interview to Business Insider. “I’m running because I believe I will be the best governor for the state of Michigan — whether or not I’m Muslim.”
El-Sayed could be both the youngest person to be elected governor, since Bill Clinton in 1978, and the first Muslim in the United States to do so. But despite his accomplishments and dedication to transforming Detroit’s health department, El-Sayed has to face another challenge: overcoming the rising levels of anti-Muslim sentiment in the current social and political climate.
“My faith is really important to me, as it is for many Americans and Michiganders,” El-Sayed said. “But I think we should be asking ourselves rather than how one prays, or what they pray to, we should ask ourselves what [one] prays for and what one hopes for.”
While El-Sayed said his Islamic values are at the center of his work as a civil servant, he wants people to know his number one priority is to serve the people of Michigan.
“My focus is, has always been, and will always be people,” El-Sayed said during his campaign announcement speech in February .
Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed: Much More Than Just a Name
Link to the audio: https://soundcloud.com/malanational/abdulrahman-mohamed-el-sayed
“I am Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed, and I’ve had this name since 1984. As a Muslim-American man growing up in our society, there are baggages that come with that kind of name. But for me, that part of my identity has always been fundamental to who I am, and I am very proud of my name; it’s one of the most common names in the entire world.
I was a junior in high school during 9/11, and I played football. And I remember one experience, which was the week right after 9/11, which was when football games resumed. I remember the experience of, for the first time, being teased and called a number of racial epithets that I would hear for the rest of my life. And I remember getting really frustrated on the field, and I was being pushed and shoved and pushed back–and I ended up getting 15-yard penalty and I got pulled out of the game by the coach. And the coach looked at me and said, ‘Well, what did you do that for?’, and I said, ‘Well, they were being racist; they were saying these things to me.’ He said: ‘Listen, you’re going to be Abdul El-Sayed for the rest of your life, and you can either use it as an excuse, or you can use it as motivation.’
And for me, it’s been a motivation throughout my life.
I think we, as a society, have to move beyond questions of what faith, or what you pray for, or how you pray. And rather than asking about how you pray, or who you pray to, or what direction you pray in, or what language you’re praying in, to be asking questions about what you pray for. And I know, like many Americans, that I pray for my family, and I pray for my state, and I pray for my country. And as a Democratic candidate for governor in the state of Michigan, I do believe that people in our state are asking the same kinds of questions that I’m asking, and will see beyond differences in demography to appreciate our diversity and ask questions about how we come together, for the future of our state.”
By all accounts, El-Sayed is a normal millennial with no political experience vying to run a state that has had its infrastructure and soul chipped away at for the better part of three decades. But at 30 years old he was the youngest health commissioner of a major U.S. city. He rebuilt the Detroit Health Department after the city shut it down during the municipality’s bankruptcy in 2013, and — bolstered by the 2016 election of Trump, whom he deems utterly unqualified — El-Sayed stepped into the political arena as an equally inexperienced candidate with a polar opposite view on governing.
Over the past few months, he’s made headlines by rejecting all corporate money and quietly raising an entirely publicly-funded campaign. The left-leaning Muslim American millennial says he can fight for their ideals and their opportunities. “And I know that a lot of young people have been really put off by politics. And they see the responsibility to step in and fight. They’re graduating into an economy, whether from high school, from the trades, or from college, that is one of the hardest to find a job in with huge levels of debt, and without opportunities that they feel are befitting of their educational experiences. And they worry about the world that they’re raising their kids in. And what that’s gonna be like for them.”
El-Sayed says he had the privilege of being a young man in the twenties while Barack Hussein Obama was president. “And, while I may have disagreed with some of his policies, let’s be clear, the man was dignified and articulate, and thoughtful, and an excellent American president. And young people now don’t have that. And they worry a lot about whether or not our system can be rectified. And they see the responsibility to be a part of that, and I’m thankful that they see that in this campaign.”
The Guardian dubs him ‘the new Obama’.
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