Hakeem addresses challenges at forum

by Allison Wickler

Minneapolis currently has three men of color and no women of color in City Hall positions, and Farheen Hakeem said she aims to change that in the upcoming election.

Hakeem, the Green Party-endorsed candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner in the 4th District, addressed the challenges of being a Muslim woman in politics at a forum Tuesday, which was co-sponsored by the Women’s Student Activist Collective, the Muslim Student Association and the College Greens.

After speaking about her background, a panel of the sponsoring groups’ members asked about her stance on feminism, increasing awareness and acceptance of diversity in politics, as well as the feedback she has received from the community.

Hakeem said she drew on the propaganda she saw come out of the events of 9-11, which she said she felt targeted Muslim women, to become a political activist.

As she moved up in politics, she decided to run for Minneapolis mayor because she saw the need for more diverse, progressive representation in local politics.

“I wanted to explore how we as Muslims and as women can re-own our image,” she said.

When she began campaigning, she said the press “came out of nowhere,” questioning how her religion would affect her candidacy.

For some people, it’s a “mental stretch” to see past what they expect her to be, she said.

Hakeem said that during her run for mayor her focus was, and still is, on the issues.

She said one Muslim belief she holds is that no person should be valued less than another, but it correlates with America’s value of equality.

She also said at one point she did fear people voting for or against her simply based on her religion, but the progressiveness of south Minneapolis restored her confidence.

Since her mayoral run last year, Hakeem said she has gained a lot of community respect and wants to establish a pathway for other Muslims and women to become public figures.

“We are human beings that live and love and laugh and do the same things as everyone else,” she said.

Sami Khwaja, president of the Muslim Students Association, said he thinks religion and gender played a role in the election at first, but the election will ultimately be decided based on the community’s support of the issues.

Anthropology junior and Women’s Student Activist Collective member Chelsea Fisher said it’s beneficial to see an alternative perspective in politics.

“It really opens peoples’ minds,” she said.

First-year law student Zainab Akbar said she is proud Hakeem is giving hope to Muslims who want to enter politics.

“She doesn’t feel like she needs to fit into any kind of mold, political or social,” she said.

Hakeem is running against incumbent 4th District Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.