NEW JERSEY – Feeling the power of a unity vote for the first time, American Muslims are gearing up to Tuesday’s vote to choose a new president for their country, driven by hope of making their voice heard and fear of the consequences of the close race.
“Your vote is your voice. It’s not about choosing from the lesser of two evils, but it also could show that American Muslims do play a role in politics,” Kaity Assaf, a Rutgers student from Clifton, told her peers, North Jersey.com reported on Saturday, November 6.
Like Assaf, many American Muslims say they are gearing up to vote in large numbers on Tuesday to send this message.
The vote follows a massive voter-registration campaign that has included door-to-door visits, voter registration drives, phone banks and speeches at social and religious events imploring crowds to turn out.
Next Tuesday, Muslim voters say they hope to demonstrate their power as a political constituency, because of their high concentration in key swing states such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan.
It’s in those battleground states where their votes could help decide the outcome of an election, community organizers say.
Moreover, the speeches of Republican nominee Donald Trump vowing to ban Muslims from entering America, or recalling a century-old Philippines conflict in which he claimed that Muslims were being killed with bullets dipped in Pig’s blood, was motivating to many other first-time voter American Muslims.
A survey conducted by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based advocacy organization, showed that 86 percent of registered Muslim American voters planned to vote this year.
The October survey showed that 72 percent of registered Muslim voters planned to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, while only 4 percent said they would cast their ballots for Trump.
Another 30 percent reported that they had experienced discrimination or profiling in the past year.
“These numbers tell a story of Muslim American community that is hopeful and worried,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which released the survey findings in October.
“They’re worried that the national political discourse has deteriorated so much that they feel unsure of their future as American citizens.”
Though voting for years for the Republican Party, many American Muslims were choosing Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton this time.
Diab Mustafa’s 76-year-old father tells him he has to vote against Trump because he fears he’ll treat Muslims and their children “like we don’t belong to this country.”
“I think the Trump factor may make a lot of people go out and vote. But when we look at the positions, the big picture is that foreign policy is not motivating anybody to go out and vote,” said Mustafa, a Clifton resident.
Same as Mustafa, Omar Mohammed, of Upper Saddle River, said his parents are registered Republicans who voted for George W. Bush in his first term.
“In the last few cycles, it’s just that Republicans have totally just changed,” Mohammed said.
“They’re alienating a lot of voters. The tone is that we’re the bad guys. That’s not going to work out for us.”
For other Muslim leaders, the election season was a chance to give their community a voice that has been ignored for too long.
“Voting is one of the ways we can use to be heard and to be part of the process,” said Ahlam Jbrara of the #MyMuslimVote campaign at the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton, who has been touring cities across the county as part of the campaign.
To reach that goal the US Council of Muslim Organizations, a coalition of groups across the country, said thousands of new voters have registered at events held at more than 2,500 mosques, 500 schools and at community centers around the US.
In a separate effort, the New Jersey Muslim Voters Project registered more than 5,000 people in the state, said organizer Ayaz Aslam.
“Our goal is to get involved all levels, local, county, city or state,” Aslam said.
To voters he says: “Go and see what candidates stand for and see what attracts you and what you like and vote for that candidate.”