Ambassador Sada Cumber, the first US Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, interviews Dr. Suleman Lalani, Candidate for Texas House of Commons.
I have been a longtime advocate for greater participation in the political process by the Ismaili Muslim community. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with Dr. Suleman Lalani, who is running as a Democrat for District 76 in the Texas House of Representatives. Ambassador Sada Cumber
SC: You are a successful physician with a thriving practice. What inspired you to go into politics?
SL: My personal success has been very gratifying. My success is a tribute to my parents’ passion for education and my family’s sacrifice so I could succeed. Yet the true gratification for any physician to ease the suffering and cure your patients. That has become more and more difficult in Texas. I knew I could do more for my patients but the obstacles from our Texas Legislature were mounting. That is when I realized the best way to fulfill my obligation to my patients and all Texans was to change the laws I knew were keeping our communities from prospering and living healthy lives.
SC: What are the sacrifices and challenges you have faced running for office?
SL: There is time that is taken away from my business affairs but the time from my family and friends is most difficult. The saving grace is that my family is so dedicated to this campaign they are there are with every step. Running for office can be a lonely experience; putting yourself out for the world to criticize and question is daunting. Knowing my family is there to support me makes the difficult day easier.
SC: What should the Asian community in general, and Ismaili community in particular, do to help you win?
SL: The AAPI and South Asian communities have had great success in this wonderful country. Our talents are allowed to bloom, and we add so much to the culture and economy of the United States. Yet there comes a time when you realize your community is not heard and represented in our government. This power comes from organizing and registering to vote. There is another table apart from the business table where big decisions are made and we currently are not properly represented at that table. We need to develop a culture of community engagement in our communities. Voting is not a chore but an obligation to the nation that has provided so much opportunity. Donating and volunteering cannot be seen as transactional, the reward and putting good people in office. We are developing and nurturing this type of culture in Fort Bend and I hope to become the first Muslim elected to the Texas Legislature.
SC: What areas does TX HD76 cover?
SL: Texas House District 76 is the new district cut in Fort Bend County. Many of our community members will have friends and family in the district. The neighborhoods of Sugarcreek, Lakemont Grove, Mission Bend, Four Corners, Townewest, Meadows Place, Old Orchard, Summerfield, Aliana and New Territory/River Park, and many more.
SC: What wiII you do to help the community, county, and state once elected?
SL: I want to serve our diverse community and prove that a Muslim can serve non-Muslims with the same vigor and attention as anyone from their community. I understand the significance of being the first Muslim but I will be there representing my fellow HD 76 Texans and I know the world will be watching. I will focus on passing legislation that improves the day-to-day lives of my future constituents with a focus on health care and public education. When my constituents from the opposing political party see that I have their best interest at heart I hope to start to bring down the partisan barriers that prevent effective legislation.
Final Thoughts from Ambassador Cumber:
If elected, Dr. Lalani will be the first Muslim South Asian to serve in the Texas House of Representatives. More than ever, it is important that immigrant communities (including those who already have a substantial proportion of second and third-generation immigrants, like Ismailis) take an active role in politics and governance. While not everyone can run for office, everyone can vote. As Ismaili Muslims, we have been guided to fully participate in the communities and societies in which we make our homes.