DEARBORN – As Election Day draws closer, Arab Americans are heading to the polls with the rhetoric of this year’s presidential campaign ringing in their ears.
“They’re excited — they want to get out to vote…,” Rachid Elabed, the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) community engagement manager, told The Detroit News.
“ … They’ve been seeing the effects of Islamophobia.”
Choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Muslim voters will flock to polling stations next Tuesday, November 8th. Polls will be open from 6AM to 7PM.
According to the Pew Research Center report in January 2016, Muslims represent just 1 to 2 percent of the country’s population.
However, the majority of the 3.3 million community lives in strategic places, or swing states, like Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
Awaiting the big Tuesday, volunteers are phoning registered voters, knocking on doors, and more to mobilize the demographic, hoping to push larger crowds to cast ballots.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work and it’s going to be a lot of strategizing, making sure our community gets to these polls, votes and makes an impact on this election,” said Hassan Sheikh, executive director at the nonprofit Emerge USA Michigan, which works to engage, educate and empower Muslim, South Asian and Arab American communities.
Falling in the middle of a divisive presidential election, volunteers and voters are recognizing the significance of participating, advocacy group officials said.
“I’m pretty confident that the voter turnout is going to be higher for our community than in 2012,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter.
Emerge USA is teaming up with others across the region, including the Michigan Muslim Community Council, in efforts aimed at energizing and reaching voters, whatever their political persuasion.
Using information from a national database, they have identified roughly 50,000 registered Muslim American voters to call, Sheikh said.
Beyond that, more than 40 area mosques spurred worshippers during Friday prayers, when attendance is often high, to vote.
Organizers stress the work is nonpartisan and volunteers don’t steer potential voters to a particular candidate or party.
“We are trying to create a culture where people are engaged and politically empowered,” Sheikh said.
Marwa Khalil, a young American Muslim high school student from Dearborn who cannot vote, decided to volunteer to help non-English speakers in Election Day.
“I’m only 17, so I can’t vote. I don’t want to feel like I really don’t have a voice in this election,” she said.
“Going out and calling people, even strangers, telling them how important it is to vote, just helps me feel empowered.”