U.S. MUSLIMS INCREASING THEIR POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT
Washington - Houston City Councilman M.J. Khan, a Muslim American originally from Pakistan, answered questions sent from journalists and students in Morocco, India, Sri Lanka and Liberia about his political career and about Muslims' growing political involvement in the United States.
"My election was significant in the fact that I come from a different culture, a different background, a different religion, and yet people voted for me," he said during the recorded interview hosted March 5 by the U.S. State Department.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, with a Muslim population of roughly 250,000, Khan said. The district he represents, which does not have a significant Muslim population, is overwhelmingly Christian. The ethnic-racial makeup of his district is largely Hispanic and also includes African Americans, whites and Asians.
Khan, a Republican, was first elected to city council in 2003 and has been re-elected once since. He will seek re-election again in 2007.
In addition to his position on the council, Khan is president of a real estate development company and has served as president of the Pakistan American Association of Greater Houston and as vice president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. He came to the United States in the 1970s and earned degrees from Rice University in Texas.
Khan told USINFO that questions about Islam or about his being a Muslim "never came up in elections. Constituents want to talk to me about local issues like barking dogs, garbage pickups, loud clubs, traffic congestion and crime."
Yet he said his faith does influence his work: "If I do well, hopefully, it will … open doors for other Muslims to follow in [my] footsteps in going into public office and serving the society." He tries to be "the best public servant" and serve all of his constituents "indiscriminately."