The blue Muslim-American wave for public office

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SHAFAQNA – More than 90 American Muslims, nearly all of them Democrats, are running for public office across the country this year. Many are young and politically inexperienced, and most are long shot. Muslim Americans say they feel energized to run for public office because of Donald Trump’s Islamophobic policies.

Muslims who reside in the United States have launched different political campaigns against President Donald Trump’s “oppressive” policies on the community, ahead of the gubernatorial elections scheduled in November this year.

Muslim political activists and community leaders say they’ve noticed more young Muslims showing up to political events ranging from legislative hearings and school board meetings to women’s marches and civil rights rallies, Washington post reports.

Omar Vaid, a movie set technician based in Brooklyn, New York, would probably not be running for Congress in November’s mid-term elections were it not for President Donald Trump. But Vaid, 36, the Muslim son of immigrants from India, was so alarmed by Trump’s ban on Muslim travellers and a spike in race-baiting that he is making a stand as a Democratic candidate in the city’s only Republican-held district later this year. Democrats like Vaid are energized ahead of the midterms, which often measure a president’s popularity. More women are running in House races than ever before, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, Middle East Eye reports.

According to Iqna, Abboud is one of Muslim candidates seeking elected office in Donald Trump’s America, many spurred into action by the president’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.

Abboud told the Guardian she saw a “silver lining” in finally being noticed. But she also felt a familiar frustration. She is from Little Rock, Arkansas, as evidenced by her southern twang. Nonetheless, she has had to settle for being known as the Muslim candida.

Abboud wears a headscarf. Slurs against her have included calling her a “towel head” and suggestions that Muslims should not serve in the US government.

“We’re trying to change what leadership and power look like in this country,” said Fayrouz Saad, a 34-year-old from Michigan who if elected would become the first Muslim woman in the House of Representive.

Nearly 100 Muslims are running for office at state and federal levels. Almost all are Democrats, few have held office before. Several who were interviewed by the Guardian said they did not want a disproportionate focus to be placed on their faith.

“I’m not really interested in being the first Muslim anything,” said Abdul El-Sayed, another political newcomer who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in Michigan. “I know that my constitution does not care how I pray or if I pray, but if I care about the same ideals expressed in the constitution”.

Nawabi, a 31-year-old candidate for San Diego City Council, supports almost everything that Trump opposes: He is pro-affordable housing, pro-environment, pro-immigrant and pro-refugee. That makes him part of the blue wave of new liberal candidates spurred to run by Trump’s election and policies.

To some analysts, anything is possible. The recent bombshell that House Speaker Paul Ryan is stepping down hints at a Republican party in disarray, with Democrats vying to win control of one or even both houses of Congress.

The problem, however, is that there is so much Islamophobia in the Republican party, and just enough of it among Democrats, that a Muslim candidate can only succeed in a heavily Democratic district.”

“The Muslim-American community is politically weak. We don’t have sufficient political power due to our low voter turnout and lack of coordination,” Alzayat told MEE. “We’re disadvantaged until we rectify this imbalance.”

Some candidates and political activists say that even if no Muslim candidate wins a seat this year, the blue Muslim wave still will have accomplished something. The American public will grow more accustomed to seeing Muslim candidates, they say, and Muslim youth will see candidates who look like them or share their values.

In a 2001 Zogby poll of American Muslims, 42 percent said they voted for Republican George W. Bush in the previous year’s presidential election, while 31 percent said they voted for Democrat Al Gore. By last year, just 8 percent of voting American Muslims in a Pew poll said they voted for Trump, while 78 percent said they voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. While Clinton’s campaign never garnered broad enthusiasm from Muslim communities, Trump’s campaign — which called for the monitoring of mosques and a ban on Muslims entering the United States — delivered a jolt on election night that some American Muslims likened to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Now, Muslim candidates are running for a wide range of offices across the country, from local school boards to the U.S. Senate. Some are making their Muslim identity central to their campaigns.

Half a century ago, a small population of black Americans embraced Islam as a pathway to political empowerment and civil rights, and today their descendants are members of the U.S. military, police officers, city council members and career civil servants.

But in the immigrant community, the experience is newer. About two-thirds of American Muslims are immigrants or the children of immigrants, and activists say a cultural fear or mistrust of government can accompany those who have fled authoritarian regimes, hindering participation in the political process.

There are at least 3.3 million Muslims living in the US, according to recent estimate, but Muslim Americans hold just two of the 535 seats in Congress. The Muslim community’s voter participation pales in comparison to the general public’s, well over 1.5 billion worldwide. The current crop of US congressional candidates are largely the American-born children of immigrants.

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