In her own words, Rashida Tlaib is “a mother working for justice for all” but she is undoubtedly much more than that. The American-Palestinian congresswoman is best known for making history in November 2018 when she became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress alongside Somali-born Ilhan Omar. Their win had not only marked a groundbreaking milestone for Congress but also a win for the Muslim community and women of color. Tlaib had run unopposed on the general election ballot and won the Democratic nomination for the United States House of Representatives seat from Michigan’s 13th congressional district.
Both Omar and Tlaib ran progressive platforms in their primary races, including access to affordable housing and health care for all, a USD15 minimum wage, increasing the number of refugees admitted to the United States, and the abolishment of ICE, to become the Democratic nominee.
Tlaib, who served in Michigan’s state legislature from 2009 to 2014 before working as an attorney, is also known for disrupting a speech given by then-presidential nominee Donald Trump in 2016. Drawing national attention, Tlaib was one of the most notable protesters to be forcibly escorted out of the venue. The congresswoman is a vocal critic of Trump and has also advocated his impeachment.
Born to Palestinian immigrant parents — who hail from Beit Our al-Foqa, a village in the West Bank — Tlaib is the eldest of 14 children. Following her win, Tlaib, who has actively campaigned her roots, draped herself in a Palestinian flag during a celebration rally in Michigan. She then went on to create an iconic moment with her choice of outfit when she was sworn into the House of Representatives on January 3, 2019 (on Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an, notably). The new congresswoman from Michigan arrived on Capitol Hill wearing a black, traditional Palestinian thobe previously owned by her mother and adorned with red, hand-stitched embroidery, known as tatreez. She had made the announcement via an Instagram post in December. “Sneak peek: This is what I am wearing when I am sworn into Congress,” she wrote on Instagram alongside an image of a traditional red and black hand-embroidered dress, with the hashtags #PalestinianThobe and #ForMyYama.
Tlaib’s bold decision to wear the traditional garment sparked a new Twitter hashtag #TweetYourThobe, in which droves of Palestinian-American women around the country took to the social media platform to upload photos of themselves wearing their own garments.