By Gina Martinez
Bangladesh-born City Council candidate Mohammed T. Rahman is hoping to make history as the first South Asian Muslim official in the City Council.
Rahman, who worked as a supervisor in the city Department Of Social Services for 21 years before retiring in March, said he was inspired to run amid growing concerns about how the Trump administration’s policies toward Muslims will affect New Yorkers.
Rahman, of Jamaica, was running against Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary to represent Council District 24, which covers Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood and Jamaica.
“New York has one of the largest South Asian Muslim communities in the nation, yet there are no elected South Asian Muslim officials in the City Council,” Rahman said. “As a result, we see not only a growing distrust of ordinary South Asian Muslim citizens, but also a huge disparity in how Council discretionary funds are distributed.”
Rahman said his campaign is part of a growing trend of South Asian-American candidates running for city office, a reflection of the community’s increasing population and influence. The city’s Bengali population has doubled to 100,000 since the 2010 census, Rahman said, and it’s time for new voices to be heard.
“Muslims are slowly being squeezed out of the mainstream by discriminatory practices and attitudes,” he said. “The best way to combat this is to normalize relationships between all of our communities, and integrate Muslims into our system of representative democracy.”
Rahman said he has spent most of his life helping the community as a social worker and he believes he will provide better representation for the community if elected. He said he will be able to better distribute city funding and services and will make certain every community in District 24 gets its fair share.
According to Rahman, in 2017 District 24 was allocated about $710,000 for Lancman to distribute to not-for-profits. City Council finance records show that only about $40,000 of that money went to organizations serving the South Asian community in the Jamaica section of the district, he said.
“While there are many deserving organizations doing good work throughout the district,” Rahman said, “there needs to be a fairer distribution of resources. I will represent the entire district in a fair and equitable way.”
But according to Lancman, this number is innacurate. The councilman said in 2017 he directed $282,490 in funding for Bangladeshi community and Jamaica Hills with $49,000 in fund from India Homegoing to the Desi Senior Center at Jamaica Muslim Center.
Although he plans to support the South Asian community, he said he will be a representative for everyone in the diverse district. Rahman said that as a councilman, he will focus on ways to reduce crime, help seniors, youths and development.
As of now, Rahman said he has support from the community.
“I’ve gotten a good reaction from everyone,” he said. “Politicians need to go to the people, not the other way around.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart