Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (R) and Rashida Tlaib (L)

Two American congresswomen were permitted to take the oath of office on the Quran while in many Muslim countries, non-Muslim minorities are not given a similar privilege.  

As a Jewish American woman, I am proud of how far America’s democracy has progressed.  When my mother was growing up in Tulsa, OK, she was barred from living in certain neighborhoods and going to certain places because she was born into the wrong faith.  There were swimming pools with signs in front that read: “No blacks, no dogs, and no Jews.”   On top of that, there were very few women who studied political science in the universities, which was considered a male dominated profession at that time.

However, today, a record number of at least 100 women will be serving in the US House of Representatives.  Furthermore, Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico will be the first Native American women serving in the US House of Representatives.   Massachusetts’s Ayanna Pressley will become the first black woman to represent the state in the US House of Representatives.  And Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will be the first Latinas from Texas in the US House of Representatives.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg regarding how much America is breaking down barriers and tearing apart the glass ceiling.  US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and US Congresswoman Ilhan Omer were sworn into the US House of Representatives as well on a Quran.  Furthermore, the House of Representative rules were altered so that Omer can participate in congressional debates wearing a hijab and Tlaib was sworn in wearing a traditional Palestinian dress.  For the American people, this is a historic moment that highlights America’s vibrant democracy.   America has truly transformed into a place where a member of a minority group, through hard work and determination, can reach the heights of success.

Part of the reason why minorities are successful in America is because the country is set up to be a melting pot, which absorbs many peoples and accepts the diversity that minorities have to offer as a virtue.  In the United States, congressmen and congresswomen have the option to accept the oath of public office utilizing any holy book that they desire, whether it be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever, or the US Constitution, if a congressman or congresswoman does not believe in any religion.  Following these historic election results, Americans should be proud that they are part of a nation that is so tolerant towards minorities and boasts the history of being the oldest democracy in the world.  In America, a persons’ vote can truly make a difference.

Sadly, in Bangladesh and many other Muslim countries, non-Muslims are not given this privilege.  According to Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, “18 minority leaders were forced to be sworn into the Bangladeshi Parliament on a Quran under the direct order of the Sheikh Hasina government. I strongly condemn this behavior towards the minority MPs.  Why can’t there be a separate arrangement for swearing in for the Hindus and Buddhists of Bangladesh like there is in the US and other democratic countries?”  Basu can only dream of his people enjoying what minorities in America benefit from on a daily basis.

Indeed, it is ironic that as America swears in its democratically elected congressmen and congresswomen, Bangladesh held an election, where widespread voter fraud was reported.  Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, stated in an exclusive interview: “The elections in Bangladesh were considered a violent political grab during which tens of thousands of opposition political activists were arrested and minorities were killed. International law defines these elections as false and illegal.  Therefore, we as Israelis do not recognize the legality of these elections.”

For this reason, Safadi is calling upon the Bangladeshi government to release all political prisoners and to permit every citizen to vote and be elected, without violent pressure being exerted on him or her. “Sheikh Hasina did not win the last elections,” he proclaimed.  “She lost her right to be a Bangladeshi loyal to the people and the homeland. Anyone who conducts such a criminal act is a traitor to the people and the state.”

“I call upon the international community to not recognize the rigged elections in Bangladesh,” Basu proclaimed.   “Sheikh Hasina robbed the people of their democratic rights.  She is holding the people of Bangladesh hostage. Today, the people of Bangladesh cannot move around freely and cannot speak openly.   Journalists and human rights activists are living in fear.  So far, two journalists were arrested for reporting on the rigged elections.  Therefore, I urge all of you in the wake of the highly celebrated American elections to help restore democracy to my country by holding free and fair elections under a care-taker government.  Hopefully, under a new regime, the minorities of Bangladesh will one day enjoy what America’s minorities do.  America continues to serve as our inspiration and role model for what we would like our country to be like post-Sheikh Hasina.”