Rashida Tlaib Officially Becomes First-ever Palestinian-American Woman in Congress

Tlaib was sworn in with a Koran book that used to belong to Thomas Jefferson, the third President and one of America’s founders

Rep. Rashida Tlaib poses with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for a ceremonial swearing-in picture on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2019.
\ JOSHUA ROBERTS/ REUTERS

Rashida Tlaib made history on Capitol Hill Thursday when she was sworn in as the first-ever Palestinian-American woman in Congress. Tlaib, who was elected in November to represent the 13th district of Michigan, is the daughter of Palestinians from the Jerusalem area, who immigrated to the U.S. before she was born. 

During her swearing-in ceremony, Tlaib wore a traditional Palestinian thobe - an ankle-length garment that, according to Tlaib, used to belong to her mother. Tlaib told Glamour magazine that “wearing my mother's thobe is a gift to her. Just like any immigrant parent, she wants her children to succeed, but without giving up our roots and culture. No matter where our parents are from, you can see the connection they're making in me wearing my mother's ethnic dress. It's exciting."

Tlaib was sworn in with a copy of the Koran that used to belong to Thomas Jefferson, the third President and one of America’s founders. The book was originally translated in 1734 and is kept in the library of Congress. She and another colleague who was also sworn-in yesterday, Ilhan Omar, are the first two Muslim-American women to serve in Congress. 

Tlaib has endorsed the BDS movement, and has called for the establishment of a bi-national state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. She told The Intercept last month that she will try to organize a delegation of lawmakers to the occupied West Bank, as a counter to the annual delegations to Israel organized by AIPAC. 

Explaining her views on the conflict during the election, Tlaib said: “One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42-years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work."