Ruwa Romman remembers the sadness of an 8-year-old girl sitting in the back of a school bus as her classmates pointed to her house and laughed violently.
“There’s a bomb lab over there,” they scoffed in another attempt to label her family as terrorists.
on Tuesday, Now a 29-year-old community organizer, the girl made history as the first Muslim woman elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. He was the first Palestinian American to be elected to any office in the state.
After 10 months of relentless campaigning, Berkeley Lake and Duluth in Gwinnett County from the Democratic Party; He said he is eager to begin representing the people of District 97, which includes Norcross and Peachtree Corners.
Immigrants the grandchildren of Palestinian refugees; As a Muslim woman wearing the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, the path to political office is not easy, especially in the Christian and conservative south.
“I could write chapters about what I’ve been through,” Romman told CNN, describing the many ways she’s experienced bigotry or discrimination.
“Every time I get ‘randomly picked’ by the TSA. My life has been colored by teachers teaching me falsehoods about me and my identity in classrooms to defend Islam and Muslims.”
But those challenges only fueled her passion for civic engagement, especially among marginalized communities, Romman said.
“I’ve taught myself to find out who the most marginalized people are because they don’t have the resources or the time to seek the help they need in the halls of political organizations,” she said.
Romman partnered with the Georgia Muslim Voter Project in 2015 to increase voter turnout among local Muslim Americans. He also helped establish a state chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim rights and advocacy organization.
Soon after, Roman began working with the wider community. Her website states, “Ruwa has volunteered every election cycle since 2014 to help turn Georgia blue.”
Her main focus is helping to expand access to health care; bridging the economic opportunity gap; It aims to do this by protecting voting rights and helping people get life-saving care, such as life-saving care. Abortion.
“A lot of people ignore state legislators because they’re local and don’t have much impact.” State legislatures don’t realize it directly affects them,” Roman said. “Every law that makes us mad or makes us happy started somewhere in the state legislature.”
Romman said she always wanted to influence the political process, but never thought she would be a politician.
The decision to run for office came after attending a Georgia Muslim Voter Project course.
“I told her; I do not think so, He wrote a beautiful piece about Muslim women in Georgia. But he started with, ‘Ruwa Romman is considering running for office,’ and I’m not. Roman recounted. “But when it came out, the community saw it and the response was very positive and everyone kept talking about doing it.”
Two weeks later, Roman and a group of volunteers began a campaign.
families rooting for her to succeed; Surrounded by friends and community. They knocked on 15,000 doors, sent 75,000 text messages and made 8,000 phone calls.
She said her Republican opponent, John Chan, had not attacked her fairly.
“My opponent called me a terrorist and used anti-terrorist words saying I had links to terrorism,” she said.
Flyers supporting Chan’s candidacy She is accused of having links with terrorist groups.
Chan did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
It’s the same kind of bullying Romman experienced as a schoolgirl, she said. Only this time she wasn’t alone. Thousands of people turned their backs on her.
“Unbelievably, people in my district sent me his letter and said, ‘This is unacceptable. How can we help? How can we get involved? How can we support you?’ And it was an incredible moment for me,” she said.
Her passion for community and social justice is rooted in her faith, Romman added, adding that “justice is a central tenant of Islam.” “To be good to others; It inspires us to care for our neighbors and protect the marginalized.”
It is also rooted in the family’s experience as Palestinian refugees, driven from their homeland by Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
“My Palestinian identity has made me focus on justice and caring for others,” Roman said. “Everyone deserves to live in dignity. I hope to see Palestinians everywhere demonstrate this consistently and as proof that hard work can make history.
“I may not have a lot of power in foreign policy, but the Palestinians are not a nuisance, they are terrorists. Or I sincerely hope that we can at least remind people that this is not another horrible perversion that society has on us,” she added. “We are people with real dreams”
According to the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Roman is among three other Muslim Americans elected to state and local office in Georgia.
The other three candidates, all Democrats, are Nabilah Islam, the first Muslim woman elected to the Georgia state Senate; Sheikh Rahman, who was elected to the Senate of Georgia, and Farooq Mughal, who was elected to the House of Representatives of Georgia.
“Georgia has had Muslim representatives at the state level, but this win means more gender and ethnic representation for Muslims in Georgia than ever before,” the group’s executive director Shafina Khabani told CNN. “We may not have a representation that looks like us and aligns with our values, but we have an opportunity to advocate and influence policies that directly affect our community.”
“Having diversity in political representation means better laws, It means more inclusive leadership and welcoming policies for all Georgians,” she said.
Above all, Romman hopes her election points to a future free of hate and bigotry.
“I think it’s proof that people are realizing that Muslims are part of this community and that the tide of Islamophobia is going to recede,” Roman said.
Looking back on her childhood, Romman wishes she could tell her younger self that things will get better with time, and hopes that one day she will not only make Georgia history, but make a real difference in the world.