Aneelah Afzali, far right.
Aneelah Afzali, far right. Jack Storms

In just four days, President Donald Trump will give his first State of the Union address in Washington, DC. During his first month in office, Trump has expedited the Dakota Access Pipeline, revoked anti-discrimination guidance protecting transgender students, and, most infamously, implemented a travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries—which was eventually blocked.

It is only fitting, then, that Washington State Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who serves on the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, be joined by Aneelah Afzali—a Muslim American lawyer and the director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network—at the address.

“I am honored by the invitation from my representative, a fierce champion for the rights of all people,” Afzali said in a statement. “I’m attending the State of the Union to showcase the diversity that truly makes our country great and highlight the positive contributions of American Muslims to our nation, at a time when fearmongering and scapegoating are being used to demonize Muslims along with other minority communities.”

In the 10 days after Trump was elected, 867 hate-related incidents were reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Forty-nine of those incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment, the organization reported.

“When politicians or commentators talk about Islam or Muslims, they should think about the effects of their words on the everyday lives of millions of American Muslims, especially the American Muslim children growing up across our nation," Afzali told Washington's Council on American-Islamic Relations. "To those children, I say as a Harvard-Law educated American Muslim woman: 'You have the right to grow up with the same hopes and dreams as any young American. You can be a fully practicing Muslim and a full-fledged American.'"


"Aneelah’s story is the American story," said Rep. Jayapal in a statement. "A Muslim American woman of color, Aneelah has devoted her life to fighting for justice and equality. The president’s policies marginalize entire communities and target people like Aneelah for their race and religious beliefs."

She continued: "She represents everything good about our country and I could not be prouder to have her as my guest. The president cannot hide from those he is threatening. ... Here’s my message for Donald Trump: Our State of the Union is strong when all of our communities are strong."