CAIRO – Overwhelming support from Dearborn’s Arab-American Muslim youth has given Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders a huge victory in Michigan, blowing media claims that a Jewish candidate was less likely to get the support of Arabs and Muslims.
“It’s no surprise that the mainstream media … is guilty of promoting two-dimensional caricatures of Muslims and Arabs,” Hend Amry, a Libyan-American writer who frequently comments on social issues related to Muslims, told International Business Times on Wednesday, March 9.
“I tweeted that the media is shocked that Dearborn residents didn’t announce an ‘intifada’ against Jewish Bernie Sanders to point out this very stereotype.”
This week, Sanders released an Arabic-language radio ad aimed at Dearborn’s media market.
Speaking in Arabic, the narrator talks about attacks on Islam by Republican candidates, and then features Sanders saying in English, “we have got to stand together to end all forms of racism.”
On Monday afternoon, Sanders spoke to a packed theater that included many Arab-American Muslims, including several women wearing hijab who sat behind him as he addressed the crowd.
He was introduced by Detroit native US Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Sanders met before the speech with the publisher of the Arab-American News, which endorsed him last week.
The narrative of Arab-American Muslims in Dearborn supporting a Jewish candidate was one that struck many on social media as a symbol of unity at a time of division on the campaign trail.
Giving media a surprise on Tuesday vote, Dearborn’s Arab-American Muslim youth rallied around Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, helping him win the city, 63% to 37%.
“Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, have long been targets of discriminatory anti-terrorism policies, and Sanders’ campaign has responded to these concerns better than anyone else. He even promoted his campaign platform of equality and dignity in Arabic,” said Amry.
“We are also seeing, perhaps, a response to the Sanders’ campaign’s attack of corporate America. Michigan’s blue-collar Arab Americans are suffering economic challenges too, not just white blue-collar Americans.”
Young Vs Old
As the majority of Muslim youth supported Sanders, first and second generation Muslims voiced support for Hilary Clinton.
“She has faith and she talks sense,” said Ahmad Musaad, 76, of Dearborn, who immigrated from Yemen to the U.S. in 1963. “She tells everything. No hiding.”
Mohammad Said, 66, of Dearborn, agreed, saying that under her husband, Bill Clinton, and other Democrats, America prospered.
According to a poll touted last week by the Council for American-Islamic Relations, 78 percent of Muslims between the ages of 18 and 24 favored Sanders, more than three and a half times the number favoring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I’m a millennial, so the obvious choice would be Bernie Sanders,” Zayd Sufyan, 26, of Dearborn, a third-generation Arab-American Muslim, told Detroit Free Press on Wednesday.
“He’s for the minority, he’s noticing the youth, wants them to be able to go to school without paying too much for it.”
Shiab Mussad, an Arab American Muslim, said he was impressed with Sanders’ passion about making college more affordable.
“He’s for people like us, people like me,” Mussad, 22, explained Tuesday as voters ambled toward Salina School, which sits close to the Ford Rouge plant.
“I got thousands of dollars of college debt, and he talks about making college affordable, giving me a fair shot. That resonates a lot with me, with young voters.”
As for Sanders being Jewish, Sufyan and Mussad said that was not a factor at all.
On social media, some “will see…my Arabic name and they’ll be like: Why are you supporting him? He’s Jewish,” Mussad said.
But “I support him because of his policies, not because of…his personal religion.”
“He has a good foreign policy record.”