Sevil Shhaideh is no longer in the running to become Romania’s next prime minister, after the proposition was rejected by the country’s current President, Klaus Iohannis. If Shhaideh was elected, this would have been a feat for both women and Muslims in Romania and internationally.
Although Shhaideh is now expected to serve as deputy prime minister, there is still some mystery surrounding Iohannis decision. Did her religion or gender play a role in this? This is not to imply that Iohannis is a racist or a sexist, but perhaps he felt he had to consider how the Romanian public might react or maybe he did in fact feel that she was not the right candidate, despite her abilities being praised by members of their government.
There are already many Muslims in positions of political power- as discussed in my previous blog post– those who hold general positions such as MP’s, as well as those who are there to represent Islam in ambassador roles. Having people in the latter role is extremely important in developing understanding and communications between the respective parties.
Particularly in the UK there are many Muslim MPs, but perhaps seeing more Muslims in non-Muslim countries come into power roles not related to their religion, such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan, could indicate a change in perceptions where Muslims are being judged on their individual merits and abilities separate from their ties to personal beliefs. Here, however, it may be argued that perhaps their beliefs are what have shaped their abilities and therefore you cannot separate the two from one’s identity. Furthermore, assuming religious discrimination to be a reason that somebody has not been selected for a role in power may inadvertently create further discrimination by perpetuating these institutionalised images.
A further argument that could be made is that despite large Muslim populations in Western countries, demographically representation could be correlated to the proportion of the Muslim to non-Muslim population of a country.
In an ideal world, there would be no need for a ‘National Communication Director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations’ where America and Islam are not viewed as two separate bodies. Unfortunately, due to Islamophobia (of which the media is largely responsible for) this is not possible, and in the meantime it is vital for these roles to be filled and to have these people who are working towards a desired equality.
*NOTE: this post has been written as a product of procrastination, apologies for any incoherence