HAYWARD (KPIX 5) — The campaign trail toward a seat on Hayward’s city council is turning ugly for Aisha Wahab, a Muslim candidate who has become the target of racial remarks and other threats.
“We’ve had our car broken into. We’ve had yard signs stolen. We’ve had vandalism happen,” she said.
Wahab knew that when she began the race for a city council spot would be an uphill battle; she is an Afghan-American millennial who had never held political office before.
“I’ve always been seen as an outsider. I was in foster care before I could tie my own shoes,” she said. “The reality is that there is no Afghan elected official in the entire United States. We are cracking that ceiling of acceptance.”
Wahab did not, however, expect the overt racism that she says has plagued her campaign. She’s received racist emails, one with the subject line simply reading “Islam;” the rest of email asked, “Do you want to live by Sharia law?”
She says that this is just the beginning.
“I think the big kicker for me was definitely when somebody asked me if I took money from ISIS,” she said.
Wahab says she’s answered every question and replied to every email, but she says the hate has materialized in other ways.
On Monday, Patty Burton, one of her supporters, claimed she watched a man steal a campaign sign from her own lawn in broad daylight.
“He just grabbed Aisha’s sign and pulled Aisha’s sign out of the ground, and then I ran to the window and yelled at him. ‘Hey, what are you doing?'” said Burton.
“‘That’s not your sign! Put it back!’ And he looked up at us and opened the back of his car and very casually threw it in.”
“It’s really disheartening to see that especially in the Bay Area,” said Wahab.
But the hateful actions haven’t stopped Wahab’s momentum. She’s raised more money than any other candidate currently running and she says she’s staying focused on her platform: extending rent control and advocating for affordable housing in Hayward.
In a way, she says that the Islamophobia has presented her with an opportunity.
“I’m glad we can just shed some light in some of the dark spots of Hayward to make sure that we can move forward and become a bigger and brighter city,” said Wahab.
Hayward police took a report on the sign theft and they also investigated the car break-in, but so far they have made no arrests.