WASHINGTON — As the clock ticks towards November 8 presidential election, a record number of more than one million American Muslim voters are getting ready to tip the tightening race in swing states where they live in large numbers.
“We believe we’ve exceeded the one million mark,” Oussama Jammal, secretary general of the US Council of Muslim organizations, an umbrella group of two dozen Muslim advocacy organizations, told USA Today on Wednesday, November 2.
“We’ve been mobilizing the community with voter registrations at mosques, schools and community events. That’s how we were able to make a difference this year.”
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.
When the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based rights organization, launched its 2016 Muslims Vote campaign, the goal was to lead 1 million Muslim constituents to the voting booths.
The group announced that its yearlong “One Million Voters” campaign had surpassed its target, more than doubling the number of registered Muslim voters in America since the 2012 presidential election.
A surge in Muslim electoral participation could have consequences beyond the presidential race, helping Democrats in down-ballot races and perhaps creating a more cohesive voting bloc in future presidential contests.
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.
The head of CAIR satirically thanked Republican candidate Donald Trump for “energizing” the Muslim community’s civic engagement with his anti-Muslim comments.
“I usually don’t thank the candidates but I’d like to thank Trump for energizing the Muslim community in an unprecedented fashion,” said CAIR executive director Nihad Awad.
“The Muslim community feels the heat and the brunt of the propaganda, but also understands it’s important for them to vote.”
The one million voter drive was launched last December after Republican candidate Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration.
The call sent shivers across the mostly immigrant Muslim community.
The Arab and South Asian immigrants that make up the majority of the Muslim American community have historically voted in relatively small numbers and rarely as a single voting block.
To get more Muslims to vote, Muslim groups set up registration booths at more than 2,500 mosques, 500 schools and a multitude of community centers throughout the year, giving the effort a big push in September by marking the Muslim holiday of `Eid al-Adha with a special voter registration drive.
“Imams have been instructed to give sermons about the importance of voting and participation in the public life,” Jammal said in an interview with VOA.
Historically, prior to 9/11, Muslims have tended to be a mixed bag when it came between choosing Republican or Democrat.
According to the New York times, “In 2000, a few hundred votes decided the election; an estimated 60,000 Muslims in Florida voted for Bush”, it shows Muslim attitudes prior to 9/11, were at times, aligned towards more Conservative issues and values that were represented by the Republican Party. (Senzai, F., 2012)
Almost immediately after the ‘war on terror’, voter attitudes shifted dramatically towards Democratic candidates among Muslims.