Georgia State Sen. Sheikh Rahman often tells people he represents the “United Nations of Georgia.”
Rahman represents a district of residents from more than 100 countries who speak more than 100 languages. As an immigrant from Bangladesh and the first Muslim lawmaker in Georgia, Rahman spoke about his unique perspective on the importance of unity in politics during a Berkeley Forum event Monday evening.
“When you interact with people who don’t look like you, don’t speak your language, you have a better understanding,” Rahman said at the event. “As an immigrant, it really helped me. In my district, people look at me and say, ‘Hey, this guy can represent me.’ So people have a confidence in me, and I have confidence in them.”
Rahman did not always see himself being successful in politics. When he first got involved with a gubernatorial campaign in college, Rahman said he thought that as an immigrant and a Muslim he would not be able to win an election.
After the election of former president Barack Obama, however, he was inspired.
In 2016, Rahman was elected to the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, and a year later became the first Muslim on the Executive Committee of the DNC. In 2018 he made history being elected the first immigrant in the Georgia State Senate.
“In my first term in office I realized that activism and election are one thing and that the legislation is a whole other struggle,” Rahman said during the event. “Even with all the good intention it’s not easy to pass legislation, you have to work not only with your own party but with the opposition too.”
He added that being in the minority party makes it difficult to pass legislation, and a lot of his efforts have gone toward improving bills.
Rahman’s platform emphasizes ethnic and partisan unity. He said he is proud to be a part of the diverse Asian American community because it has broadened his connections and played a role in his success. After the recent shootings in Atlanta, Rahman spoke with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris about addressing violence against Asian Americans.
Rahman encouraged young people interested in politics to get involved with local organizations. He said having the support of a coalition and strong ties to the community is key to success, even on a national level.
“I want young folks to look at me and say that if this guy can do it, I can do it too,” Rahman said at the event. “We cannot do this alone. All of us have to participate, everyone has a job to do, everyone has to contribute and sacrifice to have the same goal to make the future better for all of us in this country.”