MSU alumnus Abraham Aiyash is the first progressive Muslim Yemeni-American candidate running for State Senate in District 2.
The primary will be held Aug. 7, and the election is Nov. 6.
Aiyash is 24 years old and studied premedical sciences, political theory and constitutional democracy while at MSU. He was also a member of the Student Senate, a part of the James Madison College, co-founded a non-profit, was the president of the Muslim Students’ Association, or MSA, and was a member of many other organizations.
He said he rebuilt MSA and gave the organization a new direction.
“I saw this opportunity there to really take this organization and make it something where one, we engage the Spartan community on campus, not just among each other but we are able to engage many people on campus, and say look, we have a presence,” Aiyash said.
MSU alumna Hauwa Abbas has known Aiyash for more than three years and has worked alongside him with MSA.
Abbas credits Aiyash for changing the reputation of the MSA — for the better. Before, they were seen as a place where Muslims met up, but really did not do much, Abbas said.
“He really changed the structure to make it more academic-based and something of purpose,” Abbas said. “He ended up being the kind of president we have never seen before in MSA past.”
He worked with businesses to give members of MSA discounts and access to places. One of his proudest accomplishments through MSA was the Halimah Project, an organization that provides support for refugee children in Lansing.
“These kids are growing up in a country where they are being told by a few people that they somehow don’t belong,” Aiyash said. “So I took it upon the MSA to say we have to do something for these kids to make sure that they escaped fighting fear and famine in hopes of building a better tomorrow.”
Aiyash always thought he would go to medical school, but the vision for his life changed. Aiyash was an organizer for protests when President Donald Trump signed the travel ban. This event is where he was thrown into the political atmosphere and began to see the impact he could have, he said.
“We had a demonstration to show people that the Michigan State community is with you, and we will not let one election define who we are as a community, and we are not going to allow one election to define how we treat people, as a function of who they are or what they believe in,” Aiyash said. “In that moment is when I started getting encouragement from friends and mentors to consider getting back into the political landscape.”
One of his driving motives for running for this election is wanting to fix the political corruption and profit-driven decisions. He wants to engage people in their government by being an honest leader, Aiyash said.
“We need to set a standard for honesty, accountability and transparency,” he said.
Aiyash’s priorities in his campaign are transparency and engagement. If elected, he will be the first state senator to release his financial reports to his constituency. He will make that clear and accessible to the public, Aiyash said.
“I want to make sure that we have leadership that will be held accountable,” Aiyash said.
Social relations and policy senior Gerena Walker was in James Madison College alongside Aiyash. Aiyash re-created the college inclusion committee.
Walker said he is fair and she thinks his age gives him an advantage.
“He is in a good position because with him being young, he is very open, especially in dealing with innovation and trying new techniques,” Walker said. “He is also closely-knitted as far as being apart of having recently just studied public affairs.”
Aiyash also added he wants to reach out to other districts and engage people in other communities.
“As a senator, I am going to be a lobbyist for the second district, and a senator for the entire state,” Aiyash said. “I want do as best as I can, as good as I can, for as long as I can."