March 10, 2023
American Muslims in Politics republished
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
American Muslims in Politics was first published in 2015 covering elections results up to 2014. Since then five elections have been held. So it was necessary to update the book.
The seven-million-strong American Muslim community has responded to the post 9/11 challenges with political and social activism, media campaigns, outreach and interfaith dialogue. It is now more proactive as it believes that the best way to protect its eroding civil rights is to become more active politically. From coast to coast, Muslim and Arab-American groups are organizing as never before to make known their concerns about civil liberties. They have gone beyond sign-waving demonstrations to hold voter registration drives, meet with politicians and form alliances with other civil rights and religious organizations.
American Muslims are becoming more organized and vocal in their demands, petitioning school boards to establish prayer rooms in public schools for their children and turning to the courts when they believe their constitutional rights to practice their faith have been violated. Many American Muslim and Arab American organizations launched voter registration drives and campaign to encourage the Muslim voters to vote.
The American Muslim community got a big political push when the Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison was elected as the nation's first Muslim member to the US Congress in November 7, 2006 elections. Ellison's election was accompanied by a massive turnout of the American Muslim voters to make their voices heard. "Tonight, we made history," Mr Ellison said in a victory speech to supporters. "We won a key election, but we did much more than that. We showed that a candidate can run a 100% positive campaign and prevail, even against tough opposition." The two Muslim Congressmen, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson were re-elected in the November 2014 midterm election. After representing Minnesotans in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years, Keith Ellison was elected Attorney General of Minnesota in 2018.
The American Muslim community often had a rough time during the elections campaign with smear against Islam, bigotry and stereotyping. Consequently, Muslims rejected the Republican Party at the polls in 2008, 2010 and 2016. According to the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, just 2.2 percent of Muslims voted for Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008.
Since 9/11, there has been a steady rise in Islamophobia, however during the 2010 election campaign there was an exponential rise of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry. Many Religious Right leaders and opportunist politicians asserted repeatedly that Islam is not a religion at all but a political cult, that Muslims cannot be good Americans and that mosques are fronts for extremist ‘jihadis.’ There was a substantial increase in the number of political candidates using Islamophobic tactics in an effort to leverage votes, and use such tactics as a platform to enhance their political visibility.
The 2016 election campaign season brought an unprecedented level of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric into presidential politics. Like the previous election cycles, the Republican leaders’ anti-Islam bigotry was extremely disturbing. Donald Trump had advocated for the creation of a database for American Muslims, and has proposed shutting down mosques. Trump had also brought up vivid imagery about killing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood and has claimed that “Islam hates us.”
The most significant anti-Islam action of the 2014 midterm election was approval of Alabama’s Amendment 1. Alabama is the eighth state to approve a law intended to vilify Islam. The measure was inspired by Islamophobe David Yerushalmi’s American Laws for American Courts legislation, which stigmatizes Muslims as a group from which the US needs protection.
The use of Islamophobic discourse to exploit voters’ fears remains an acceptable component of political campaigns. Like the 2010 midterm election, Republicans were responsible for the overwhelming majority of anti-Islam electoral prejudice. Outside of an electoral setting, however, the party held some public officials accountable for employing anti-Muslim prejudice in 2014.
Consequently, more than 70 percent of Muslim voters supported Democratic candidates in November 4, 2014 election, according to an exit poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In 2018 elections, Democrat Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and Democrat Rashida Tlaib from Michigan became first Muslim women to enter US Congress. Mujtaba Muhammad won the senate in North Carolina. Indiana Congressman André Carson was re-elected and former Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison won his bid for state attorney general. Some 128 Muslims ran in the 2018 election at all levels of government from very local to national. According to CAIR, 95 percent of eligible Muslim voters turned out at the polls. Seventy-eight percent of Muslim voters cast ballots for Democratic Party candidates and 17 percent for Republican Party candidates.
Tellingly, about 69 percent of Muslim voters cast their ballot for Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden while 17 percent supported President Donald Trump. Compared with the 2016 election, in which then-President-elect Donald Trump received 13 percent of the Muslim vote, Trump in 2020 received 4 percent more support.
Three Muslim candidates were re-elected to the House of Representatives in 2020 elections. Ilhan Omar won in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District and RashidaTlaib won in Michigan's 13th Congressional District. In Indiana, Rep. Andre' Carson (D) won his re-election bid for the 7th District.
More than one million American Muslim voters turned out in record-breaking numbers in 2020 elections.
November 8, 2022 midterms saw historic wins for Muslims in local, state and federal elections. In all, 145 Muslim Americans ran for local, state and federal positions, including 48 state legislative candidates running in 23 states. At the national level, Muslim wins in the House of Representatives were by incumbents Andre Carson of Indiana, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and RashidaTlaib of Michigan.
Historic electoral win of Muslims was widely covered by prominent media with such headlines: Muslim Americans make historic gains in midterm elections [Washington Post], How Muslim American candidates made history in the midterms [PBS], Record Number of Muslims Won Office in U.S. Midterms [The Time magazine], Muslim Americans take leap forward in US midterm elections [Middle East Eye], 2022 midterms were historic for Muslim women's representation [The 19th News] and Muslim Americans fare well in midterm elections 2022 [The National News].
Tellingly, a growing number of Islamic community centers and mosques opened their doors as polling stations for voters to cast their ballots.
Appendix I - Who are American Muslims? Demographic Facts
Appendix I, Who are American Muslims? Demographic Facts, is also updated with statistics from the American Mosque 2011.
According to a report titled, “The American Mosque 2011: Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque, Attitudes of Mosque Leaders:”
(1) Mosques in the United States in 2020: 2769
(2) Mosques in the United States in 2011: 2,106
(3) Mosques in the United States in 2000: 1,209
(4) Increase in number of mosques since 2000: 129 percent
(5) American Muslims associated with a mosque: 4 million
(6) Jum’ah prayer (the weekly Muslim congregational prayer held on Friday) averaged 410 attendees in 2020, as compared to 353 in 2010, which equals a 16% increase. Almost three-fourths (72%) of mosques recorded a 10% or more increase in Jum’ah attendance. The total number of mosque participants, which is measured by the number of Muslims who attend the high holiday Eid prayer after Ramadan, increased to 1445, which is a 16% increase from the 2010 count of 1248. Using the Eid prayer count, the number of “mosqued” Muslims is approximately 4 million.
(7) The American mosque is a remarkably young institution: Most of the existing mosques were established since 1980.
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