Georgia swore in its first female Islamist, Ruwa Romman, into public office on January 9, 2023. Despite spending years preparing herself for public life and winning her first election by 15 percentage points, Romman seems keen on portraying herself as a reluctant Cinderella candidate who came out of nowhere to serve as state representative for Georgia’s 97th district.
Upon winning her seat last November, she told CNN she had no plans to run for office until a reporter falsely reported she was “contemplating a run” after seeing her attend a training session for potential political candidates. “That article sparked such an intensely positive community response that I launched my campaign 15 days later,” she said.
After a successful campaign, she referred to her election as “something I never would have imagined, not even five, ten years ago” in an interview with Atlanta station, WSB-TV. Romman earned a bachelor’s in politics at Oglethorpe University where she served as president of the school’s student government. She attended Georgetown where she obtained a master’s in public policy. While there, she served as president of the McCourt Student Association which represents students at Georgetown’s school of public policy.
A cursory review of her career indicates Romman has been preparing herself for a life in politics for quite some time. Her self-portrayal as a reluctant candidate who was uninterested in running for office until a wave of support forced her hand seems a bit far-fetched. In 2015, Romman worked as a field coordinator at the Georgia Muslim Voter Project. Romman has spent years studying and working in politics and public policy and has helped draft federal legislation. In 2016, she told a group of students, “I really do want to become Secretary of State.”
The newly elected state representative has been involved in Islamist-related activism since childhood. Romman’s LinkedIn page lists her as a speaker for the Islamic Speakers Bureau (ISB) from 2011-2017. Romman, a Jordanian-Palestinian by birth, came to the United States as a child and grew up in Georgia. She says she first gained exposure to the ISB in 7th grade, eventually serving as a speaker for the organization.
The ISB was founded in 2001 and listed as an “affiliate” of the Islamic Networks Group (ING). A deleted webpage from 2010 detailed its mission as countering “prejudice and discrimination, promot[ing] intercultural understanding, and foster[ing] mutual respect through education and community engagement.” The webpage also stated that “ING achieves its mission through regional volunteers and affiliated organizations…”
In the early 2000s, the network boasted leadership that had promoted jihad as “the only way” and downplayed the evils of U.S.-designated terror group, Hamas. One prominent ING board member, well-known apologist John Esposito, dismissed the evils of Hamas, declaring the organization “was distinguished by concern for ‘community social services’ and ‘small business ventures,’ including honey production, cheese-making and clothing manufacture.’” Hamas has perpetrated numerous suicide bombings against Israeli civilians since the 1990s.
Romman served as a speaker for the Atlanta based Islamic Speakers Bureau, which lists “ICNA Relief” and “Islamic Relief USA” as partners. Both of these groups have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. ICNA Relief also happens to be listed as a donor to the “violent South Asian Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami.” And Islamic Relief stands accused of funding terror. Both Israel and the United Arab Emirates list it as a terror-financing organization.
If Romman’s only connection to Islamism lay in her association with the Islamic Speakers Bureau, it might be overlooked. However, Romman helped establish the Georgia branch of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and became communications director for the branch in 2017. In 2008, the US government listed CAIR National as an unindicted co-conspirator in one of the largest terror financing cases in US history, U.S. vs. Holy Land Foundation. The court found the Holy Land Foundation and its leadership guilty of funneling millions to the terror group Hamas. As of 2008, the FBI “suspended all formal contact between CAIR and the FBI.” And in 2014 the United Arab Emirates listed CAIR as a terror organization.
Romman has not disavowed her involvement with CAIR. She remained silent after her opponent, John Chan, sent out flyers in October pointing out Romman’s work for CAIR and the fact that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has designated CAIR a terror organization.
When talk show host Rico Figlioni asked Romman about the UAE’s terror designation of CAIR, she said that “the last time I checked, we live in the US. The UAE is not a civil rights friendly country…There are literal (sic) think tanks whose entire, for a while it was like a $300 million industry to increase fear about Muslims in America. And they literally would fundraise off of, ‘Let’s find the terrorists among us.’ And we’d see these, like, it was truly like that’s how they would fundraise. And they went after everyone. I mean, they went after CAIR Georgia,” she said.
Romman didn’t stop there. She also defended Islamic Relief, which has a history of terror financing. “They went after an organization called Islamic Relief whose literally only job is to feed and house poor people. That’s truly all that they do,” said Ruwa. Both the UAE and Israel list Islamic Relief (IR) as a terror organization and both the Swiss bank UBS and British bank HSBC have closed its bank accounts. IR has financial ties to proxies for numerous terror groups including Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al-Qaeda.
In addition to defending CAIR and Islamic Relief, Romman has promoted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel and called for donations to American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA). In 2007 ANERA gave $140,000 to a rocket and explosive producing university founded by Hamas “spiritual leader” Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. In November 2022, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) listed Romman as a speaker for their annual convention. The organization is currently being sued as a revamped successor to several American non-profits found guilty of providing material support to Hamas.
And if all this were not concerning enough, Romman has accepted campaign funds from Huwaida Arraf and Linda Sarsour. Arraf co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which she herself acknowledges works with the terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Sarsour, another Palestinian-American, had her picture taken with a Hamas operative and fundraises for the pro-Palestinian group, Al-Awdah, which endorses terrorism.
Romman has made her support for Sharia (Islamic law) clear too, “We don’t want thinly veiled anti-Muslim laws known as anti-Shariah laws; going after the Muslim community for enhanced surveillance is unacceptable; working with anti-Muslim think tanks that have been fueled by dark money is unacceptable.”
Romman, who did not respond to FWI’s request for comment, says Sharia is “as diverse as the schools of thought in Islam,” but she says, “There are some things that Muslims do have agreement on. They include, giving charity, praying, respecting the law of the land, equal rights for women, prohibition of FGM [female genital mutilation], being good to others, etc. While they may point to Saudi Arabia and Iran which have politicized the faith, Muslims living in America love the constitution because it protects everyone.”
Ruwa Romman’s election to the Georgia State House brings her a significant step closer to achieving her dream of becoming Secretary of State. Five of the most recent Secretaries of State served in Congress first. Members of Congress typically hold office in their state legislatures prior to running for Congress, and Romman has already had experience in Washington, D.C. and crafted federal legislation.
Susannah Johnston is FWI’s investigative journalist.