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Meet Shahana Hanif, the first Muslim woman elected in New York City

The young community organizer ran on a progressive platform, and is one of several women joining the New York City Council in the near future.

Meet Shahana Hanif, the first Muslim woman elected in New York City
Image Source: shahanafrombk / Facebook

The New York City Council recently held its June primaries. Results were released earlier this week, and Shahana Hanif from the city's 39th District won over half the vote. Hanif, who campaigned in a Brooklyn district historically represented by White men, will be the first Muslim woman on the council. In a post uploaded to Twitter celebrating the historic win, she wrote, "I stand on the shoulders of giants, this is the victory of a MOVEMENT." The young councilwoman is only one of several women who have shone during the recent primaries; a majority of the council is expected to be filled by women next year, PIX 11 reports.


Hanif, who has extensive experience organizing to improve housing, supporting the arts, and fighting for a better criminal justice system, is a Bangladeshi Muslim woman born and raised in Kensington, the largest Bangladeshi community in Brooklyn. "I’m a Brown woman in politics, which is a rarity," she said in an interview with Refinery 29. "We’ve never elected a South Asian or Bangladeshi Muslim woman to the New York City Council. So, I’m navigating a space that is a first for me." The councilwoman won with 15,980 in the maximum round, which is 57 percent of the total vote.


She shared, "Navigating politics in Brooklyn is an art form. I’m running a campaign that is creative and authentically me and true to my values of family, feminism, community, and inclusivity. My politics of progress and freedom are beautifully interwoven with my Bangladeshi heritage and history and Muslim identity in Brooklyn. I’ve been intentional about setting a tone that is rooted in love, justice, and working-class power. This also means dismantling white supremacist values that have gated brown and Black communities from participating in progressive politics." Additionally, she noted that her work would not be possible without her community.


"What’s beautiful is that this work doesn’t rest on me alone," Hanif stated. "There are so many organizers who are building multiracial and intergenerational coalitions and challenging the status quo." In her victory tweet, the councilwoman recognized the contributions of the Muslim Democratic Club New York; Bangladeshi Americans for Political Progress NYC; DRUM Beats NYC; the Bangladeshi Ladies Club; and Muslims for Progress New York. She added, "It's imperative that we take this moment as an opportunity to get organized. We must continue to create transformational change, resist right-wing forces, and dismantle systems built to target, surveil, and deport us—this work requires a movement."


The councilwoman ran on a progressive platform and now has plans to execute some of the most radical policies in recent past. For instance, Hanif has promised to defund the NYPD’s budget by at least $3 billion, and reallocate the funds to public education, youth services, affordable housing, and mental health services. She also hopes to launch a new Green Collar Jobs initiative to create green unionized jobs. She is only one of several women who will join the New York City Council next year. Hanif will be joined by leaders such as Linda Lee, Crystal Hudson, and Sandra Ung.


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