Raheela Ahmed
Raheela Ahmed

(Diya TV) — Indian-American Raheela Ahmed upset incumbent Jeana Jacob in last week’s Maryland Board of Education District 5 primary election.

The 22-year-old received more than 3,000 more votes than the incumbent Jacobs — 9,624 to 6,004. She will now go head-to-head with runner-up Cheryl Landis, who received 8,072 votes of her own, in November’s general election.

“If Mr. (Donald) Trump’s views were a true reflection of Americans beliefs, I would not have won this election decisively. My district has around 56,000 voters and Muslims are less than one percent of that,” Ahmed said after the victory. “Mr. Trump can make outrageous and offensive statements for political reasons, but I am a strong believer that America’s diversity is our strength,” she added, crediting her victory to the diversity in America’s culture.

“By attacking aspects of people’s identity like gender, ethnicity and faith, Mr Trump is dividing the masses. Strength comes from unity, collaboration, trust and understanding. If he really wants to make America great again, he needs to stop dividing and start uniting!”

If she wins election in November, Ahmed would become the youngest Indian-American to be elected to an education post in Maryland. Currently, she works in the global public sector as an advisory associate for Grant Thornton.

“The plan of action is to win the general election, which I lost by 3 percent in 2012. I will be engaging all sorts of stakeholders over the next several months. I love grassroots campaigning…It’s the core of my candidacy,” she said.

Her father, a technology entrepreneur, arrived stateside from Hyderabad at the age of 25. Her mother soon followed, joining them from Pakistan when she was five years old.

To defeat the stereotype, Ahmed said she believes no religion condones the use of violence in any regard. Islam is no exception.

“The majority of Muslims are peaceful people. The word ‘Islam’ itself means peace. Terrorists that act under the name of Islam are twisted in their understanding of the faith,” she said. “I’m representing individuals that largely do not identify with my faith, ethnicity, youth and gender, in a time where Islamophobia, racism and discrimination are around every news corner. However, this election win shows that people see what they want to see,” she said.

“I won because more people connected with my shared values and aspirations than those turned off by my differences.”