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Hyderabad-born woman creates history after being elected Virginia Senator

She was known as ‘Munni’ as a child in Hyderabad before her family moved to America. Fifty years later, Ghazala Hashmi scripted history in the land she has made her home. A Democrat, Hashmi unseated incumbent Republican senator Glen Sturtevant in the 10th senate district of Virginia. With this win, Hashmi became the first Muslim-American woman and also the first Indian-American to serve in the Virginia state senate. 

The win comes at a time when a growing number of Muslim women are foraying into US politics. It was only last year that Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first two Muslim women to make it to the US Congress. 
Immigrants make up nearly 30% of the adult population in the 10th senate district. It has a fairly large population of Indians, Hispanics and Koreans among others and immigration is seen as an important political issue there. 

“Ghazala Hashmi is an American name,” she emphasised during her campaign leading to the elections on November 5. This is her first run for public office. Hashmi recently left her job as director of Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Reynolds Community College to campaign full time. She had been an educator in various capacities for more than two decades. 

Congratulating her, Zafar Akber of Hyderabad, who now lives in Dubai, said: “We knew her as Munni and have been following her ever since she was a child. Congratulations. We are all so happy to see her as a great senator.” Akber, who works with an airline company, is an alumnus of Aizza High School in Malakpet. 

On Twitter, @SaiyidSays described Hashmi’s victory as a ‘proud moment’ for Hyderabadis. “She created history by becoming the first Muslim senator from Virginia and defeated a Republican of Trump’s party,” said Saiyid, who is a business development manager in an MNC. 

“This victory is not mine alone. It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia,” Hashmi said after her victory. She further promised: “After flipping the senate, I’ll have Democrats by my side to fight to protect Virginians from the climate crisis and senseless gun violence.” 

Ghazala earned her BA in English from Georgia Southern University and a Ph D. from Emory University. Hashmi and her husband Azhar shifted to Richmond in 1991. The couple, who have two daughters, reside in Midlothian, Virginia. 

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