By Matthew Agar, Program Coordinator, American Islamic Congress
This is the first piece in a series on Muslims and the 2016 Presidential Elections.
This election has turned out to be a monumental moment for Muslim Americans. Of the substantive issues brought up during the Presidential debates, issues of Islamophobia, countering violent extremism, and refugees are front and center. This begs the question: How are Muslim Americans becoming involved in the political process?
It is safe to say that this year, Muslim Americans are planning to vote in larger numbers than almost any previous election cycle. In addition, many Muslim Americans have taken to starting or joining Political Action Committees (PACs), as well as participating in political fundraising. Sajid Tarar, a Muslim American originally from Pakistan, has spearheaded the group, Muslims for Trump, and even spoke at the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, gold-star Muslim American father, Khizr Khan, has taken his son’s story from the Democratic National Convention podium to political advertisements for Hillary Clinton. More than ever, it seems Muslim Americans are desiring to make their voice heard.
Despite this involvement, Muslim Americans lag behind their counterparts in political engagement. A January 2016 poll by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that only 60 percent of Muslims who can legally vote are registered, compared to 86 percent for other religious groups. Furthermore, many Muslims are disenchanted with the electoral process altogether. Of the 60 percent of Muslims who can legally vote, 15 percent stated that they will not do so in the 2016 Presidential Elections.
So, why become involved? Muslims, like any other American, have the right and privilege to vote in elections, yet now is an opportune moment for their voices to shine.
On the most basic level, Muslims should engage in the political process of this election so that the leaders that represent them best reflect their interests in policymaking. These interests are what all Americans want: freedom, justice, dignity and respect. Voting is the most basic way to ensure that your leaders are those that will enact legislation that you support, but there are other ways. Volunteer for a political campaign. Write to candidates on a policy issue you feel should be addressed. Attend rallies and other campaign events. Follow the debates. Most importantly, hold candidates responsible for discussing the issues; in the end, and when the last ballot is cast, that is what really matters.
Therefore, I call upon our Muslim American men and women to vote. You matter, this country matters, and your essential place as citizens of this country matter.
The views found herein are those of the author and do not represent those of the American Islamic Congress.