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Muslim woman becomes first hijabi to win Australian council election

Published: Updated:

Four Muslim individuals won a seat in Australia’s largest city council in terms of population, Canterbury-Bankstown, Sydney. Among them is the first veiled Muslim woman councilor, on Saturday.

The win comes amid rising conflicts demanding a ban on Muslim women wearing the headscarf and preventing them from earning seats in public offices.

After successfully serving as the CEO to the Riverwood Community Center for 18 years, Nadia Saleh, of Lebanese descent, and an Australian resident for28 years, was elected as the first veiled Muslim councilor to the city’s council.

The center specializes in providing family services in the city which hosts 500,000 residents.

Former Mayor

Speaking to Al Arabiya, Saleh’s Husband, Khider Saleh - who was Bankstown’s deputy mayor in three consecutive sessions for 13 years - said that 150,000 Arab immigrants constitute the city’s population, most of whom are Lebanese.

Khider was also the first Muslim and Arab to win the city’s council elections. The 31-year-old Lebanese immigrant was the leader of the ruling Australian Labor Party in this election. In the Roselands’ department, his wife and three other Muslim members won as the largest bloc in the 15-member municipal council.

Of the three other winners, Mohammed Huda and Mohammed Zaman are originally from Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the fourth winner, Lebanese national Bilal al Hayek won another department in the municipality which is comprised of five departments.

Important achievement

Khider, a father of four with Nadia, described her win as a very important achievement. Al Arabiya.net found that news of Nadia’s win was a prominent headline in various international media outlets, including British Daily Mail and Indonesian Tribun Style.

It was also prominent in dozens of Australian media outlets. “This is because her win came amidst campaigns fought by Australian deputies, parties and some racists and extremists against Islam and Muslims,” said Khider.

Khider continued saying that Muslims constitute about 110,000 individuals in Canterbury-Bankstown. “This is more people than the Australian state of Tasmania’s entire population,” he added.

The ill-intentioned campaigns seeking to prevent Muslims from participating in the elections and banning their inclusion as part of Australia’s social fabric “back-fired,” said Khider.

“This is thanks to the Australian people’s awareness and condemn of Islamophobia,” he added.