First Muslim woman in Virginia Senate from teaching family

Hyderabad: Ghazala Hashmi, who made history by becoming first Muslim woman to be elected to Virginia State Senate, hails from a family of educationists in Hyderabad.

Migrating to the United States with her family when she was just four, the Indian-American scored a stunning victory over sitting Republican Senator Glen Sturtevant.

The 55-year-old, a Democrat, was elected from Virginia’s 10th Senate District to become the first Muslim-American woman to serve in the State Senate.

Aformer literature professor and former director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning at Reynolds Community College, Richmond, she served as an educator for more than two decades.

Hashmi dedicated her win to her supporters with a tweet saying it belonged to all those who believed in the need for “progressive change in Virginia”.

“This victory, is not mine alone. It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia, for all of you who felt that you haven’t had a voice and believed in me to be yours in the General Assembly,” she tweeted.

In another tweet, she also admired the state’s willingness to make the change. “Today we sent a message that the status quo is no longer accepted,” wrote Hashmi, whose campaign focused on education, healthcare, gun violence prevention and environmental protection.

Hashmi was born in 1964 in a highly-educated family. Her parents Zia Hashmi and Tanveer Hashmi obtained higher education degrees from reputed institutions.

Zia Hashmi did MA and LLB from Aligarh Muslim University, where he was also the president of Student Union in early 1950s. Tanveer Hashmi is an alumnus of Osmania University’s Kothi Women’s College. She did BA and B.Ed.

Zia Hashmi later did PhD in International Relations from University of South Carolina. He retired as the Director of Centre for International Studies at the same university.

According to Ghazala Hashmi’s relatives, she was a bright student right from her school days. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and a PhD from Emory University in Atlanta.

Her elder brother Dr Sohail Hashmi, who did PhD in International Relations from Harvard University is a Professor at Massachusetts while younger sister Dr. Saira Ali Khan is a physician based in Florida.

Hashmi shifted to Virginia in early 1990s with her husband Azhar Rafeeq, who is Associate Professor in School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University.

The couple has two daughters. Elder one, Yasmin, who has done Masters in Public Health Administration, is working in Washington while Noor is doing Engineering.