Even though Trump’s hateful rhetoric against immigrants, Muslims, Arabs, refugees and others is intended to intimidate them out of public life, it has in fact encouraged more to get involved and even run for office.
A recent Buzzfeed article featured several Muslims running for office in various parts of the nation, but missed these 3 individuals in Southern California: two in Orange County and one in San Diego.
Locally, filmmaker Ahmad Zahra is running for Fullerton City Council. Ahmad was born in Damascus, Syria and raised in both Syria and the UK. After acquiring a Medical Degree from Damascus University, Ahmad went on to study Film, his first passion, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His film experience ranges from development and production to distribution in both independent and studio pictures. After several years with 20th Century Fox, Ahmad went on to found Zahra Pictures in response to a need in the film market for media that can bridge the gap between different cultures. After Trump became president, Ahmad wanted to get involved to join the resistance against Trump’s bigotry. He was elected to become a California Democratic Party (CDP) delegate from the 65th Assembly District. A few months later he became the first ever LGBTQ vice chair of the CDP’s Arab American Caucus. More recently presented the City of Fullerton with a petition and a resolution to make Fullerton a “Clean and Green” city.
In Orange County, Sam Jammal is running for Congress in an uphill battle to defeat longtime Republican Congressman Ed Royce in the 39th district. Sam grew up in the communities in Southern California, raised by working class, immigrant parents from Colombia and Palestine. During the 2008 presidential election, Sam served as Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Latino Voter Protection Task Force and worked on the Obama campaign. After the election, Sam stayed in Washington to serve as Legislative Counsel in the United States Senate where he focused on civil rights, labor and national security issues. Sam was later appointed by President Barack Obama to serve at the United States Department of Commerce where he worked to expand export opportunities for American companies and small businesses. Following his work at the Commerce Department, Sam served as Chief of Staff to a Southern California Member of Congress. Sam was one of the youngest in history to serve in this role, in addition to being one of only a handful of Arab or Latino Americans ever to serve as a Chief of Staff to a Member of Congress. In 2015, Sam returned home to La Mirada to work for SolarCity and later Tesla. Sam currently lives in Fullerton and continues to advocate for renewable energy development and job creation in the clean energy and technology sectors.
In San Diego, Ammar Campa-Najjar is challenging incumbent Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional district. Born in East San Diego County, Ammar is a small business owner, former White House intern & Administration official, writer and activist. Ammar and his family lived through war in the Middle East during the late 90s. From living through war, to returning to the U.S. on the eve of September 11, 2001, Ammar witnessed how destructive people can be in the name of their ideological differences. He also witnessed how honorable people can be when united by their shared humanity. In 2012, Ammar worked alongside thousands of people, whom in the spirit of public service, volunteered their labor and love in advocacy of a common cause: reelecting President Barack Obama. Ammar served as Deputy Regional Field Director for the Obama campaign, where he helped oversee Southern California’s grassroots operations, with the primary responsibility of establishing a regional office headquarters in San Diego, CA. Following the election, Ammar served at the White House in the Executive Office of the President, handling President Obama’s official correspondence sent by American citizens, veterans, world leaders, and CEOs of Fortune 500s. Everyday, 10 letters were selected and delivered to President Obama to inform his decisions. Ammar’s time at the White House helped him further understand the daily struggles of the American people.