While an overwhelming majority of Muslims seem set to vote Democrat in November, they disagree with the party on a number of issues, Palestine and the surveillance of their community being just two.
A coalition comprised of almost 100 Muslim delegates to the Democratic National Convention (DNC), recently published detailed policy recommendations they hope will be incorporated into the Democratic party platform.
The points touch on a wide range of issues including surveillance of Muslim communities and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as the war on drugs, and qualified immunity for police officers.
Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign has made an effort to reach out to Muslim voters, seeking their support to defeat incumbent President Donald Trump in November. While Muslim delegates have welcomed this engagement, they do not think that it goes far enough.
Speaking to TRT World, Nadia B Ahmad, who co-authored the platform, said campaigns historically had spoken “at” Muslims rather than “with them”, adding: “That’s what I think needs to change going forward”.
There are tentative signs that change might be coming.
“For a number of decades Muslims have really been sought after in terms of their votes but what we are also starting to see now is actually more engagement on our issues,” Ahmad tells TRT World.
“Now in 2020, we are starting to see a higher level of engagement (and) we’re starting to see engagement earlier in the race before even the actual National Convention is happening.
“We had a meeting last week with our community, with Vice President Joe Biden and we are also starting to see more efforts earlier on in the race. So I think that’s a positive move.”
According to the coalition, Muslims in the US have expressed displeasure at the notion that the Democrats have kept political distance from them, and that their foreign policy stance has traditionally been lopsided or not strong enough- a reference to the situations in Palestine, Kashmir, Syria, and Yemen.
Some also say the party has been complacent on the issue of Muslim minority rights in China and Myanmar.
However, support for Trump is much lower, with only 16 percent of American Muslims approving of the job the president is doing, according to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s (ISPU) American Muslim Poll 2019.
That level of disapproval has pushed a majority of Muslims towards the Democrats at the ballot box.
The same study shows that 76 percent of Muslims voted overwhelmingly in favour of Democratic candidates.
“Biden’s campaign is really everything that Trump is not,” Nadia B Ahmad highlighted, referring to the apparent rise in “fascism” under the Republican leader.
Speaking to TRT World, California delegate Hanieh Jodat Barnes, another co-author of the platform said the Democrats needed to understand that the Muslim vote was more than just numbers.“It’s an extremely critical thing for (Biden) to approach the Muslim vote. We are approaching an era where (Muslims) are not just stats but we matter, our voices matter, and need to be elevated,” she said.That means, therefore, that the coalition of Muslim DNC delegates wants the party to act against Islamophobic policies that were previously tolerated by their politicians, such as the targeting of Muslims in surveillance operations.
Jodat Barnes explained: “We do support comprehensive immigration reform as Muslims and obviously the lifting up the Muslim travel ban has to become a priority.
“We also call for the repeal of Patriot Act, which was the first of many changes to surveillance laws that made it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phones, e-mail communications, so on and so forth.
“But we also oppose the damaging countering violent extremism programme and its various iterations including the state of California’s Preventing Violent Extremism and Creating Safer Communities programme as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s new Targeted Violence and Terrorism prevention programme.”
In state such as Michigan, which voted for Trump in 2016 but are set to be closely contested in 2020, Muslim communities are large enough to prove a decisive factor. Given their electoral importance, Jodat Barnes tells TRT World that Muslims need more than just token gestures.
“With our presumptive nominee Joe Biden, we do ask that he talks on issues that are very critical and not just very limited to verbiage to make us happy.
“It is extremely important for him to reach to our communities, particularly in red states and places like Michigan for example where we have a very large body of our Muslim community. That could determine the outcome of the election.”
Nadia Ahmad, a delegate from Florida, says that although Muslims constitute just over one percent of the US population, they were concentrated in major cities within swing states.
“The Biden campaign cannot only get us to vote for him but to mobilize our communities and have a groundswell of support, I think that’s really what’s going to be critical moving forward.”
Despite the optimism that the Muslim vote may be crucial to the Democratic party, the relationship has had its share of testing moments.
One such example was the July 28 online meeting of the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee, which decided on the party’s policy stances, including the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Muslim and Palestinian activists say the party platform was rushed through without input from delegates likely to oppose it and that it was conducted without transparency.
The eventual policy platform included language on Israel that omitted any mention of the occupation Palestinians have been living under for more than five decades.
Virginia DNC Delegate, Zeina Ashrawi-Hutchison, a Palestinian American, said: “We are outraged at the lack of transparency, bias, and censorship of our input as representatives of our respective communities in the platform drafting process.
“Our group of delegates feel that the biased language has been pre-drafted and predetermined behind closed doors without our involvement or knowledge, stripping away any democratic process or input from the elected delegation to the Democratic National Convention.”
Murad “Moe” Sarama, a California DNC Delegate and Chairman of Democrats for Palestine, added: “The Israel lobby group—Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFi)—publicly admitted that it had a hand in drafting the platform language on Israel-Palestine.
“This is not only problematic for the integrity of the drafting process, but also highlights the blatant and deliberate exclusion of the Palestinian narrative and our representation as Muslim American delegates, by the Democratic Party and its leadership.”
While New Mexico delegate, Samia Assed, also a Palestinian American, asked: “How would I ask my community to support the Democratic Party while they don’t support for our cause?
“How would I discuss my engagement with the party with my 9 children? It is unacceptable to us.”
[NOTE: The article came from TRT World’s Eyes on Discrimination (EOD) Centre, which monitors and reports on offences, hate crimes and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, or other related social categories. We promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.]