Muslim Democrats find a welcoming home at state convention

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SHAFAQNA – Dallas News | by Forrest Milburn : Zulikha Hussain wasn’t always a diehard Democrat. In the past, she’s even voted for a few Republicans, but that changed when Donald Trump secured his party’s nomination in 2016.

Her opinion of the party she once respected was forever tainted by the anti-Muslim rhetoric that played out during the campaign.

“The Republicans have forgotten what they stood for, what their values were, what American values are,” she said. “When you start defining me (as a Muslim), that’s when I have to say stop, that’s not who I am.”

On Saturday, she and her husband Mohammad joined fellow Texas Democrats at the state convention in Fort Worth, as the party prepares for the upcoming November elections. It was the Irving couple’s first time at a convention.

M. Emad Salem prays with other members of the Muslim caucus during the Texas Democratic Convention on Friday, June 22, 2018 at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth.

 

As the couple walked the halls of the convention center, fellow Muslims stopped to say hello. Even non-Muslims made their support abundantly clear, they said.

“It’s been amazing,” Zulikha Hussain said. “Here, you can feel the love, you can feel the inclusivity, and it makes you feel better — that this is the America I grew up in.”

That feeling stands in stark contrast, she said, to the state GOP convention, where last weekend, Republican delegates approved a platform that supports the “reasonable use of profiling” in order to “defeat terrorism.” One booth at Texas GOP convention featured a sign above it, that read “ASK A MUSLIM COUPLE ANYTHING,” and passersby quizzed the two Muslim Republicans on anywhere from “Does your husband beat you?” to “Does wearing the hijab violate the Constitution?”

The opening night of the Democratic convention kicked off with a Celebration of Cultures, a party featuring music from cultures around the world. Candidates and speakers stopped by throughout the party to ask for endorsements and votes, focusing on their support of diversity and inclusion.

“That’s what the Democratic Party is for — diversity,” said Emad Salem, a board member of the Muslim Caucus and committee member for Senate District 10, based in Fort Worth. “The party welcomes people from all heritages, nationalities, religions, genders. All is welcome, and we felt very much welcome at the convention.”

Salem said there’s “no comparison whatsoever” between the two parties and how they treat Muslims. But that divide, he said, has taken decades to widen as deep as it is today.

In 2000, Republican George W. Bush of Texas did well against Vice President Al Gore among Muslims, winning a majority of votes, according to some polls and numbers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

But that election was before the 9/11 attacks that resulted in a rise in fear toward Muslims.

“People were scared, they were worried, and now, they feel like they’re not welcome here in America,” Selam said. “Trump’s Muslim ban really broke the camel’s back for a lot of Muslims, even the ones who were hoping he would change, and I do know some who voted for him.”

As the Democrats head into November, the party needs to show it stands in contrast to the “divisive rhetoric” of the state and national GOP in order to win, Zulikha Hussain said.

“The message that I keep hearing this convention is to be kind to all,” she said. “That in itself is going to get people out to vote. We have to organize, and we have to get that message out more.”

 

Read more from Shafaqna:

U.S. anti-Muslim bias incidents increased in 2016, group says

15 Percent Rise in Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes in US

Anti-Muslim Sentiment Higher in Quebec than Rest of Canada                   

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