Queensland may elect its first Muslim MP


Liberal National Party candidate Leila Abukar will become the first Somali and first Muslim in Queensland's Parliament, if elected.

First-time political candidates are honing their campaign skills as the Queensland election becomes an increasingly tight race.

From Mogadishu in Somalia to Moorooka south of Brisbane, Leila Abukar has come a long way since she arrived in Australia as a refugee in the late 1990s.

By standing as a Liberal National Party candidate in the seat of Yeerongpilly, she is fulfilling a long held ambition.

“This is the electorate that nurtured me I want to give back to the community that nurtured me,” Ms Abukar said.

She was one of the first African refugees settled in Moorooka in Brisbane's south almost two decades ago.

If elected, she would be the first Somali and first Muslim in Queensland's Parliament but she said that's not what counts.

"I don’t think about that because what's important for the community of Yeerongpilly it is not my background, it's not my religion."

"What's important is someone who will represent them, who will be a loud voice for them and that's me."

In the neighbouring electorate of Sunnybank there is another first time candidate.

Peter Russo is a lawyer and running for Labor.

“I don't like being an armchair critic, there’s not much sense in sitting in front of the TV and criticising things around you, I’d rather be a player in the field,” Mr Russo said.

He came to national prominence defending the Gold Coast-based Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef against federal terrorism charges in 2007.

The son of a Sicilian sugar cane cutter from north Queensland is also recognised for another reason.

“I think talking to people, I think the biggest problem is that there's a character out of House of Cards called Peter Russo and uhm, that was a bit funny,” he said.

Yeerongpilly and Sunnybank are both marginal electorates and populated with some of the state's most diverse communities.

Both candidates are strong advocates for multiculturalism. 

They have put their lives on hold to run because they believe they can make a difference in Parliament.

But Peter Russo said it the time was right.

“For me it felt like a natural progression, it was something I was always interested in, the opportunity presented itself and I put my hand up."

Source SBS

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