ICYMI: Gwinnett Daily Post: New senators from Gwinnett make history as legislative session begins
January 17, 2019
By Curt Yeomans
Two new senators from Gwinnett County made state history on Day One of the legislative session. Sen. Zahra Karinshak, D-Duluth, was sworn in as Georgia’s first Iranian-American legislator while Sen. Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, was sworn in as the state’s first Muslim legislator.
Rahman also said the historic aspect of his election was not foremost on his mind. He had highlighted the fact that he is an immigrant more than his religion when he ran for the Senate. He immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 1981.
“I campaigned as an immigrant, it never really came to my mind that people would be voting for the first Muslim legislator,” Rahman said. “It wasn’t even in the picture but it just happened to be and I’m proud (to be Georgia’s first Muslim legislator), but I don’t look at it that way.
“I look at it as a Georgian, just like everybody else (and) just like every other immigrant who came to this country. I’m a proud Muslim, but I’m going to represent all because I’d really rather keep my politics separate from my religion.”
While Rahman was sworn in with his colleagues Monday morning, there was also a separate ceremony for him featuring multiple religious leaders in the Senate chamber Monday afternoon.
Rahman said he felt like swearing in to the Senate brought his family’s story full circle. His father had been part of the independence movement in Bangladesh in the early 1970s and had served as a government official in that country. As civil war raged in that country, Rahman was kidnapped and made a prisoner of war when he was 13.
He also said he felt his election sent a positive message to immigrants about what they can accomplish in Georgia.
“Georgia has a reputation as a rural state … but I think Georgia is a progressive state and Georgia is much better than people might think from outside (the state),” he said. “I think Georgia is an inclusive state. I’ll be representing one of the most diverse district in the country and I feel good about it.
“This is the American story.”