Few have the vision and courage to run for public office. It is a difficult path to traverse, but one that allows those with a commitment to voice their concerns and stand up for their values. Annisa Karim, from southwest Florida, did just that. She ran for the Florida State Senate in 2018. 

Although she came just short of winning the Senate seat, where she received 34 percent of the votes, in an area where her party-affiliated population is only 25 percent, she was able to leave a legacy of inspiration to a whole generation and helped pave the way for others in the Jamat to follow. She joins others in the country who have been elected to public office, most notably, Safiya Wazir, a refugee from Afghanistan, who was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2018.

Annisa came to the United States at the age of five, from Kenya. Her parents emigrated to America to provide a quality education for their two daughters. In fact, Annisa attributes her success to the quality of the public education that she received, while growing up in Florida. After graduating from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, she obtained a Bachelor and a Master of Sciences from the University of Florida.

Annisa’s motivation to run for public office aligns directly with the Islamic ethics of safeguarding the environment, taking care of one’s health, educating oneself, and protecting the dignity of all human beings. When asked about her political philosophy, she remarked, “I feel very strongly about the direction in which our state is going. As a scientist, I will bring solutions to the table and help the state move towards better air and water quality standards. Additionally, I am adamant about protecting equal rights and equal and affordable access to healthcare and public education. We must treat people with dignity and respect, no matter who they are.”

Her personal philosophy comes from her mantra, “Healthy Environment = Healthy Economy.”  She explained that we often think that being pro-environment means that we are anti-business, but that is not so. It is not a dichotomy, and it has taken a long time to realize that the protection of the environment is critical for the long-term and sustainable growth of our economy.

Annisa also noted that we have to remember that, as Ismaili Muslims, we have to really get engaged in the public forum. Living in a representative political society, we have the right to have our voices heard. As Ismailis, we bring a lot to the table, especially with our commitment to service, pluralism and peaceful co-existence. When we engage with elected officials, it demonstrates that we care about the well-being of the communities in which we live and wish to make a positive contribution.

Hopefully, Annisa will persevere and run for office again, to contribute her knowledge and passion for improving the quality of life for all Floridians.