By Francesco Bongarrà / Arab News
ROME: A 20-year-old Muslim law student is running as the youngest candidate for Rome’s City Council.
Though Mariam Ali’s family originally comes from Egypt, she was born and bred in the capital and promises “to give voice to the young, the elderly and the needy in this majestic city which needs a hand.”
The elections for the new Rome mayor and City Council will be held on Oct. 3 and 4. The city is covered with posters of candidates from every party running to govern the Italian capital.
Ali has “gone digital” in her campaign where she employs social media to spread her message and campaign for votes. She has some 200,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 40,000 on TikTok.
However, she told Arab News that she has been meeting “so many people in person during this campaign to hear about their needs,” and that she “has been learning so much about this marvellous city.”
She has been leafleting in the streets, giving Romans her flyers which depicts her wearing a hijab, as she normally, and proudly, does.
“I am on a journey to learn more and more: My father told me that I have been maturing so much more in terms of knowledge since I started my campaign.”
She is a candidate for the center-left coalition with the “Demos — Solidarity and Democracy” party, supporting Roberto Gualtieri, the former Italian finance minister, in his campaign for the mayoralty.
Ali flaunts the Islamic veil on her social media profiles as she is proud of her customs as a “woman with a hijab in a mostly Christian country.”
But she told Arab news: “I am not running to represent Muslims in Italy. I am running as an Italian and Roman citizen, and I want to give a voice to the young, the elderly and the needy people who live in my city.”
Ali was born in Italy to Egyptian parents. Her father, Sami Salem, is the imam at the mosque in Magliana, a borough in the south of Rome, and runs a travel agency which organizes pilgrimages to Makkah for Hajj and Umrah.
One of her three sisters is Tasnim Ali, an influencer who explains the fundamentals of Islam and the customs of Islamic culture to her young audience on TikTok and Instagram.
“Having always been active on social media, I wish to give my contribution in the best way I can on the basis of the experience I have in intercultural, inter-religious dialogue and humanitarian aid. As a young woman, I want to encourage other young people to give more.”
She believes that being a second-generation Italian “does not mean second-generation importance, nor second-class Italian. I am Italian, born and raised here and I have to set the right example, that no labels are put on people because we are all the same in all parts of the world.”
She added: "Even before, if God wills it, being elected as a city councilor, I want to send the message through my candidacy that women can, that Muslim women are not submissive as some non-Muslims want to make us think. We can and must make our contribution in every form and with all our strength.”
Ali has pledged to improve “the social life of many boys and girls in this city in their daily life. I want everyone to have their own rights, just like I want every young person here, not only those who study law as I do, to be aware of their rights.”
And she sees being a Muslim as an asset: “Islam gives me the push to be able to give more without receiving. The only thing I would like to receive and that I am receiving is the support of people. There is nothing more beautiful than to hear a good word. Surely it also gives me an extra sphere on which I can work and help know more about a community by being a part of it.”
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