- Born to Egyptian immigrants
- Was vice president of the Muslim Students Association in college
- Invited Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour to his town hall
- Ran for governor of Michigan in 2018
Abdul El-Sayed was born in Detroit, Michigan, on October 31, 1984. His parents divorced shortly after El-Sayed was born, and the boy was raised by his father, a native Egyptian who was employed as both an engineer and a part-time imam, or Islamic worship leader. After working his way through the Detroit public school system, Abdul El-Sayed attended the University of Michigan, where he served as vice president of the campus chapter of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). In 2007, the young man graduated with a BS degree and delivered his class’s commencement address alongside the event’s special guest speaker, former President Bill Clinton. In 2011, El-Sayed earned a PhD in public health from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. In 2012 he was awarded a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. (Paul Soros was the late brother of billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and Daisy was Paul’s wife.)
On September 11, 2012 — the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks — El-Sayed co-authored an article lamenting “the cultural and social biases that fuel discriminatory behavior and hate crimes” against Muslims. Further, the piece asserted that “the post-9/11 climate of discrimination and marginalization against Muslim and Arab Americans” had caused members of those demographics to develop inordinately high levels of “stress” as well as “harmful coping mechanisms like the use of drugs and alcohol,” resulting in their “poorer mental and physical health.” “After 9/11,” El-Sayed wrote, “America’s about 10 million Arab and Muslim Americans, who were too often the victims of association with the perpetrators of the attacks, were — and continue to be — subjects of suspicion, discrimination, and abuse. Hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims and even Sikhs (who are often mistaken for Muslims) rose dramatically following the attacks, and continue to occur more commonly than in the pre-September 11 era.”
After earning both an MD and a PhD in social medicine from Columbia University in 2014, El-Sayed became a professor of public health in that school’s Department of Epidemiology, where he developed a reputation as an expert on health inequalities across racial and ethnic lines.
In 2015, El-Sayed was appointed director of the Detroit Health Department.
On December 16, 2016 at the University of Michigan, El-Sayed, who had already announced his intent to run in Michigan’s 2018 gubernatorial election, co-hosted a town hall with the noted pro-Sharia activist Linda Sarsour. Encouraging the crowd to vote for El-Sayed because of his progressive politics, Sarsour stated: “I have the audacity to believe we can make history and put the first Muslim governor in office. I want you to read the history books and say, ‘I was there.’”
On February 9, 2017, El-Sayed resigned from his job as Detroit’s Health Department director in order to formally launch his political campaign. He stated that he had first been motivated to run for public office by: (a) the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which began in 2014 when a newly constructed water pipeline brought dangerously high levels of bacteria and lead into residents’ homes; and (b) his desire to combat the policies of Republican President Donald Trump. Of particular concern to El-Sayed, a Democrat, was a January 2017 executive order by which Trump had sought to impose a temporary moratorium on the issuance of visas for people seeking to travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations that were hotbeds of Islamic terrorism.
El-Sayed views the United States as a nation awash not only in anti-Muslim sentiment, but also in racism against nonwhites generally. In May 2017, for example, the Canadian paper The Globe and Mail quoted him saying: “I know what it’s like to have your butt kicked by a cop for being the wrong colour in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
At a candidates’ forum in May of 2018, El-Sayed was confronted directly by Patrick Colbeck, his Republican opponent in the Michigan gubernatorial race, who voiced his concern over El-Sayed’s associations with the notoriously radical MSA, an organization with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the course of his response to Colbeck, an angry El-Sayed said: “I knew, when I decided to run as the first Muslim American ever to run for governor, that I would face the ugliness of white supremacy, the ugliness of racism.” He also told Colbeck that because of the latter’s “Islamophobia,” “Muslims definitely hate you.” (Video of their exchange can be seen here.)
On August 7, 2018, El-Sayed lost the Democratic primary race to former Michigan state senator Gretchen Whitmer. The latter captured 52.1% of the vote, vs. 30.2% for El-Sayed.
El-Sayed is married to Sarah Jukaku, a former University of Michigan student who once served as president of that school’s campus MSA. El-Sayed’s father-in-law is Dr. Jukaku Tayeb, a nephrologist and a former president (and current board member) of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Further Reading: “Will This Man Seeking to Lead Michigan be America’s First Muslim Governor?” (Globe & Mail, 5-12-2017); “Keith Ellison and Michigan Candidates Top the 2017-18 Islamist Money List” (Counter Jihad Report, 10-8-2018); “Abdul El-Sayed, 2012” (PDSoros.org); “Health of Muslims, Arab Americans Another Victim of 9/11” (by Abdul El-Sayed & Aasim Padela); “Abdul El-Sayed Hosts Town Hall with Linda Sarsour and Winnie Wong” (Arab American News, 12-22-2017); “Detroit Health Director Set to Make Bid for Governor” (Detroit News, 2-9-2017); “Muslim Candidate for Governor Comes Unhinged over Sharia” (FrontPageMag.com, 5-17, 2018).