Who is Nabeela Syed, the Indian-American Muslim woman who made history in US midterm elections?

Indian-American Muslim woman Nabeela Syed defeated Republican incumbent Chris Bos in US midterms in Illinois. | Picture: Nabeela Syed Facebook

An Indian-American hijab-wearing Muslim woman has made history by becoming the youngest person to win the election for Illinois’ 51st Congressional District.

Afnan Habib | TwoCircles.net

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NEW DELHI — Nabeela Syed, a 23-year-old Indian-American Muslim woman, has won a substantial victory in the 2022 United States mid-term elections. Nabeela, a Democrat, has made history by being the youngest person to win the election for the 51st House district of the Illinois state legislature in the United States. She defeated Chris Bos of the Republican Party and received 52.3% of the vote.

In June this year, she also won the Democratic primary election. 

Celebrating her victory against Republican incumbent Chris Bos on 8 November, she wrote in a tweet, “My name is Nabeela Syed. I’m a 23-year- Muslim, Indian-American woman. We just flipped a Republican-held suburban district. And in January, I’ll be the youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly”.

She also penned a lengthy note on her Instagram handle, “When I announced for State Representative, I made it a mission to genuinely engage in conversation with people – to give them a reason to get involved in our democracy and hope for better leadership that represents their values,”

Thanking everyone for the support, she wrote, “I knocked every door in this district. Tomorrow, I start knocking them again to thank them for placing their trust in me. I’m ready to get to work.”

Who is Nabeela?
Born and brought up in Illinois, Nabeela graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a double major in political science and business. 

Not much is known about her Indian roots but in an interview with Grow Wealthy podcastshe said that her father immigrated to the US in 1989. “He worked his way up, was able to bring my mom here… his definition of success probably looks like building a life in a foreign country just so that he could give his future children as many opportunities as possible,” Indian Express quoted her as saying.  

The Indian Express reported that she grew up in Palantine, an upper-middle-class neighbourhood in Illinois and that “she felt disconnected from politics as a child initially.” 

That changed with Donald Trump’s presidential election in 2016 becoming a turning point in her career. 

“Once Trump was elected, the whole campaigning beforehand and seeing the kind of dangerous rhetoric he was using… that kind of tipped me over the edge,” she said in her interview with Grow Wealthy podcast. “It was the Trump presidency that took me from not only do we have to be engaged with politics but we have to actually partake in it because if we don’t, other folks are going to write the narrative.”

Syed advocates interfaith engagement and works to empower young Muslim women to take on leadership roles within her religious community at the Islamic Society of Northwest Suburbs. 

At her university, she presided over an organization that provided free consulting services to nearby NGOs and businesses. She is currently employed at a non-profit supporting a number of their civic engagement initiatives through digital strategies, such as voter mobilization, ending sexual assault in colleges, and promoting gender parity.

According to her website, Nabeela has collaborated with a number of organisations, such as EMILY’s List, to raise money to elect Democrats to Congress. She presided over a nonprofit consulting firm that assisted neighbourhood businesses.

Afnan Habib is a freelance journalist based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. He tweets @afnanhabib_