TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — State Representative Salman Bhojani is used to being a “first.”
In 2018, he made history when he became the first person of color to hold elected office in the Fort Worth suburb of Euless.
Now, he’s made history again as one of the first two Muslims and south Asians ever elected to the Texas Legislature.
And the Democrat, who now represents Tarrant County’s District 92, joined our latest episode of Y’all-itics to discuss what he hopes to accomplish as a minority member of the minority party in a conservative state.
“I’m Muslim, but there’s so much work to be done for the entire community that there is a lot more in common. And that’s the three things I want to work on, right? Continue to build on our economy, to make sure that we have quality healthcare and access to good healthcare, and then we have world class schools,” he said as he outlined part of his plan. “I mean, we are the 9th largest economy in the world. If we can’t afford world-class schools, who else can?”
Originally from Pakistan, Bhojani moved to the United States with his parents when he was 19.
He became a naturalized citizen and earned a degree from UT-Dallas and became a small business owner, running several gas stations and convenience stores. Bhojani eventually earned a law degree from SMU and started his own law firm.
Rep. Bhojani is entering a divided state government full of rancor.
And the legislature hasn’t always been kind to Muslims.
In 2007, then state Senator Dan Patrick boycotted the Texas Senate’s first-ever prayer by a Muslim Cleric. Patrick is now the state’s Lieutenant Governor who presides over the Senate. And since that moment, the Republican has said he’s tolerant of all faiths.
Now a few weeks into the job, Rep. Bhojani says he hasn’t yet experienced any intolerance, negativity, or even outright racism.
“Everybody’s really been really warm and cordial, you know. Every single state Representative. I can’t say anybody that’s been really rude to me or mean to me, even the constituents. Anybody that I’ve had conversations with has been really cordial. So, that has been refreshing. I mean, I can’t tell you that I was expecting that,” said the Democrat.
But it hasn’t always been that way, or that easy.
The Representative tells us he had a gun pulled on him while he was door-knocking during his campaign. Plenty of others, he says, have told him to go back to Pakistan.
And that’s why he says it’s important he try to do things the right way, oftentimes part of the burden of being a first.
It’s important, he argues, because he knows kids are watching… and emulating.
“And I think I wanted to make a statement for the community and for so many youth within the Muslim community that are looking at me and saying, 'Hey, you know, he’s really carrying the mantle for us and really representing our community in a positive way,'” he said.
Part of that plan includes relentless outreach.
Rep. Bhojani’s own son helped to hatch an elaborate plan for the lawmaker to take a selfie with every single Representative and Senator at the Texas Capitol.
“I think I’m at 141 already taken. So, if you go to bojhanifortexas.com, you’ll see all the selfies I’ve taken with each individual Representative and Senator. And so, I have about 40 more,” the Democrat told us. “And the reason I sort of joke around with that is, well, because it’s so important to build a one-on-one relationship with my colleagues. I did on Euless City Council.”
Even the Quran Rep. Bhojani used to take his oath of office is historic. To learn why, listen to the full episode of Y’all-itics. Cheers!
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