AUSTIN (KXAN) — Pure adrenaline, joy and immense gratitude could be felt throughout the Texas’ Capitol on Tuesday, as two Texas Muslims made history.
Salman Bhojani — a convenience store cashier-turned-attorney- and business-owner from Euless, Texas, will represent District 92, the Arlington-area in North Texas.
Dr. Suleman Lalani, who came to the U.S. with a dream to help people through medicine, will represent District 76 in Ft. Bend County.
Both Democratic representatives are Southeast Asian immigrants from Pakistan.
There are 150 representatives in the Texas House, all of whom must have lived in the state for at least two years before being elected, and in the district they represent for at least one year, according to Texas law. They have to be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen and a “qualified elector,” meaning they aren’t barred from voting for any reason.
Supporters packed into overflow rooms in the Capitol on Tuesday, watching the livestream as the two stood among their peers on the House floor and were sworn in as representatives at the start of Texas’ 88th Legislative session.
Bhojani met with some of his supporters before being sworn in.
“Seemed like my wedding day where there’s so much happening,” he said. “I don’t know where I’m going, where I’m headed. My wife is here, and I’m so glad. She’s the one who keeps me grounded.”
While most representatives held one hand up, and placed their other over the Bible, Representatives Bhojani and Lalani each placed one of their hands on a Quran, the central religious text of Islam.
Cheers roared from supporters in the watch rooms as the two officially became state representatives. Women wearing hijabs and parents holding their children in their arms were among those in the crowd, some almost in awe of the moment.
“It is a moment of pride, but it’s also come in with a sense of responsibility,” Lalani said.
With being the first, comes great pressure. Neither Bhojani, nor Lalani imagined they’d be stepping into the role they did growing up. However, they’re looking forward to bringing their unique perspectives to the Texas Legislature.
“I want to improve the access to healthcare so our regular people can afford it, and can access it,” Lalani said.
Bhojani said he has three areas of focus currently.
“We’re working on education, healthcare and economy,” Bhojani said.
Supporters said they’re looking forward to some of their Muslim values, hopefully being more present in the 88th Legislative Session.
“Just hopefully it grows with and inspires other young people to run and vote,” a supporter of the representatives, Melissa Walker said.
Their religion is a guiding factor for both men, but they want to be known for their service they plan to dedicate to all Texans.
“There are so many people that are looking up to me and saying that, you know, I’m the first I should not be last,” Bhojani said. “One of the things I want to do is continue that legacy.”
Lalani calls himself a community servant.
“We need to make a difference,” Lalani said.
It’s worth noting, the 88th Legislative Session will also showcase the largest number of women in the Texas House. Forty-five women are seated as representatives.
The Senate will have eight women represented, losing a few from the last session. Fifty-three women were elected in total in both houses.
The total has risen steadily since the 2015 session. However, the breakdown still falls behind the representation of the general Texas population, where women outnumber men slightly, in a closer to 50-50 split.