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Florida’s Muslim Community vote matters the most. Here’s Why.

Monitoring Desk

“Democratic Party’s ground game is much stronger, I think we’ve learned from the past and we’re not leaving anything to chance” co-founder of Muslim Delegates Nadia Ahmed says.

With two weeks remaining before the US presidential election, the Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden continues to lead in nationwide polls but many observers say he is “not out of the woods” yet. 

A handful of states where Biden and his rival Trump have similar levels of support among voters will probably decide the fate of the election and Florida is the largest swing state. 

Political pundits predict Florida’s 29 electoral votes will be decisive and a historical look also proves how the past three elections were won with razor-thin margins. 

TRT World spoke to Florida Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegate Nadia Ahmad on why the Muslim vote in Florida is important.

Ahmed, who is also the co-director of Muslims for Biden Voter Mobilization Strategy, says that last week there were over one million ballots that were cast by registered Democrats versus six-hundred or so for the Republicans.

Florida’s Secretary of State reported the following statistics on number of registered voters by party on August 31, 2020 where the early voting has started this Monday and will continue for the next two weeks:

  • Democrat: 5,203,795
  • Republican: 5,020,199
  • Independents: 3,653,046
  • Third Party: 188,587

“Democratic Party’s ground game is much stronger, I think we’ve learned from the past and we’re not leaving anything to chance so even among the Muslim community – who were historically decisive in the 2000 election with George Bush – where they all voted for Bush, and again in 2016 a lot of people set out the election because they weren’t inspired by the candidate and now they’re seeing that non-engagement is not an option anymore, it’s not something that can be left off the table,” Ahmed said.

“You have not only candidates that are from the Muslim community, you also have a desire from among the Muslim community to be a part of the election.”

Ahmed formed Muslim Delegates Coalition with California delegate Hanieh Jodat Barnes and they have given special focus to Florida. 

“We set out a 50 state voter mobilization effort that not just focus on anywhere across the country but set out to focus just on Florida – We also looked at all 67 counties in Florida in terms of data analysis of Muslim communities in Florida; where Muslims are voting, where their population centres are, we isolated about three counties in Florida that Pinellas County, Duval County and Seminole County where I’m from, these three counties have significant Muslim populations, significant Asian populations, and they can be enough actually to swing the whole state. These three counties, if they swing blue it will swing the whole state,” Ahmed added.

“Seminole County has been a red county since 1950 but as a result of increasing population, and migration of Puerto Ricans to Florida after hurricane Maria demographics have kinda shifted. There is a strong possibility that these three counties will shift. Duval is where Jacksonville is located, Pinellas is where St. Petersburg is located and Seminole County in Senford which is actually the home of Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of Trayvon Martin. We are starting to see more development and coalitions not only between Muslim Americans but also Latinos and African Americans and other immigrant groups and I think that is really what’s going to be decisive in the upcoming election in terms of the role Muslims will play in the Florida election”. 

“We are facing fascism”

Muslim-American organisers are aware of their political power that they can mobilise almost 3.5 million Muslims votes for the election but more importantly keen on showing their political muscle at the grassroots and at the regional level. “We understand that the electoral process alone will not liberate us and it’s through collective people power and how we show up day after election day” says Rasha Mubarak, Muslim community activist who was raised in the heart of central Florida. 

Mubarak believes election is only one of the elements of the work they are doing, “a lot of it is grassroots organising, advocacy, protests, lawsuits and how we show up in the media room.“ 

“We understand that no matter who’s elected, especially as Palestinians, as Muslims, Arabs, Southeast Asian, Iranian, Middle Eastern, Black, Brown people, we understand no matter who enters the White house that our fight continues and it doesn’t end there. Yes we are facing fascism but also I encourage young people to focus on local election, federal elections because right now we are also seeing that we’re crafting a new far left not just on a national stage but global stage,” Mubarak said. 

“People are talking about progressive issues now in congress, we’ve elected the first two Muslim women, people that stand for our issues. Although our community is tired of voting for the cleaner dirty shirt, it’s exhausting but focus on the local, state and federal elections and who’s gonna be making the decisions for us in the congress. We understand that the electoral process alone will not liberate us and it’s through collective people power and how we show up day after election day”. 

Muslim-Americans are ready to take advantage of this critical moment in the United States history, not only to drive voters or to run for office to be heard but also to push back against Islamophobic rhetoric that effect their communities inside and outside US borders.

Going forward

Ahmed Bedier, a human rights advocate and community organiser based in Florida also says “the small Muslim community in the United States is fortunately positioned in critical battleground states, including Florida which can make a difference in this election.” 

“Because whoever wins Florida, will win the presidential race. It’s critical that we get out to vote in Florida. Yes some people are hesitant to get behind Joe Biden, but Muslims are not for Joe necessarily but we are against Trump. At least with Joe Biden you can create coalitions that can push back or put pressure on them. We have to get into the political process, we have to get involved. As Muslim people in this country, this is the only process we have and available to us,” Bedier said.

Muslims have been more organised in preparing for this election, almost 100 of the delegates take part in the Muslim Delegates Coalition where they urge the Democratic Party to take more decisive action to improve U.S.-Muslim relations. 

“As a part of Muslim delegates and allies, we worked on creating platform language for the Democratic Party. We had a seventeen-page document that really set forward a vision of what we want as Muslim Americans of this country. About sixteen of those items are actually adopted by the DNC. So we didn’t get the big wins that we wanted with respect to Israel and Kashmir but we did see movements and I think having movement going forward is better than really being at the standstill which is where we have been with the Trump administration and I see a second Trump administration is similar to the second Modi administration is that it will be all out, leashing out against Muslim communities in America,” Nadia Ahmad explains.

Just three weeks before the election, Biden said his administration will “look like America” where discrimination against Muslims will end and Muslim Americans would be given a chance to serve the country “at every level.” 

He also promised that he will end Trump’s unconstitutional 2017 travel ban and sent out a message of unity against hate and bigotry, promising to pass hate crime legislation. Biden’s recent bid to Muslim voters has many wondering whether Biden is centering Muslims in the fight to unseat a president, who is overtly Islamophobic and won partly by demonising Muslims. 

“I have seen in this election cycle, especially from the Democrats, that they’ve started to walk away from more of their Islamophobic positions. There’s been meetings with the Biden campaigns with Muslims at various events. Vice President Biden has made a commitment to ending CVE practices, which is Countering Violent Extremism and so that policy, I think, is a big step not only for Muslim Americans but also Arab Americans and South Asians. One of the key issues I think that has also been addressed is that the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi as well as the Saudi led war on Yemen so I think there’s gonna be some changes in terms of policy on those issues,” Ahmed said. 

Courtesy: TRT World

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