“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails,” John Maxwell
`Eid Parties have become a regular feature at the White House. Muslims have attended Iftars and given invocations at both political party conventions. We now also have an `Eid Stamp issued by the United States post office. And while this might have had a great deal of impact on public relations, it does not necessarily translate into a change in public policy.
For many American Muslims, politics is a kind of uncharted territory that begins and ends at the polls. The Muslim community is still in the embryonic stages of the political system. We have yet to internalize the notion that politics and real change are a process not an event.
When the phrase ‘think globally act locally’ was first coined, it was used in reference to protecting the environment through grass roots initiatives. To save the planet you must start in your own back yard. Nowadays this logic extends to more than just preserving our environment but also preserving our civil liberties.
The American Muslim community has mastered the art of thinking globally, but when it comes to action, we remain stuck at the ballot box.
Voting is the effect of a constitutionally limited government, it is not, as many Muslims seem to believe, the cause of one. When the constitutional rights of any group is challenged, then voting can hardly serve as adequate protection.
We must become more engaged in defending our constitutional rights, because the importance of safeguarding our constitutional protections cannot be overstated.
The tyranny of absolute power cannot take root in a nation where the individual rights of every man is upheld as an absolute truth. It takes more than just a superficial evaluation of potential candidates to uphold our political principles, it takes our presence and commitment at every level of the political process; From contacting public officials, to donating time and money, to joining issue-based organizations.
According to Wahid Khurrum, Co-Chairperson of Emerge USA, the first federal political action committee that represents American Muslims, “voting is not the end goal, but an outcome of civic engagements.”
Wahid Khurrum along with countless other American Muslims are working hard to protect our civil liberties from unwarranted government encroachment.
According to Khurrum, American Muslims are one of the most engaged groups of citizens in the US, but what they are not- is organized. With the inception of Political Action committees like Emerge -USA, tens of thousands of voters are being mobilized and educated on how government actually works.
Emerge USA is a PAC that supports local, state and federal candidates based on their support for civil rights, minority rights, and a diverse America.
They have endorsed and financially supported candidates across the country, a majority of whom went on to win their elections. Their aim is to build strong political support and to bring civility to the political discourse. They are working to ensure that American Muslim communities have a voice in our national political dialogue.
Emerge USA is the first American Muslim lobbying organization of its kind. The foundation has three programs that help fulfill this mission: Emerging Leaders, Emerging Voters, and Emerging Data.
Their programmatic approach is to create an American Muslim community with a powerful and consistent voice in the political process.
“Voting itself is not the goal, it’s the outcome of the proper mindset,” Khurrum says.
“If the mindset is that you have something valuable to impart, then you will want to get involved. It’s evolutionary not a revolutionary process,” he says.
Emerge USA has been around for ten years and Khurrum says that in the last decade he has seen the level of political apathy greatly reduced. “People are not asking why they should vote anymore, but who they should vote for. There has been a shift in mindset.”
In addition to voter registration campaigns, organizations like Emerge USA are spearheading an emerging leaders program that prepares individuals to serve as civic leaders in their communities. Voting is not the only function we can serve in politics.
Of course as we continue to approach the end of the election cycle, everyone is still asking. Is a vote for Clinton a vote for the lesser of two evils?
According to Wahid Kurrum, recent polls show that although many Muslims might not agree with Clinton, a significant number are actually voting for her based purely on merit. “They simply believe that she is the right person for the job.”