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Muslim voters may decide the election

If mobilized, Muslims could be a decisive factor

If mobilized, Muslims could be a decisive factor on Nov. 3. Credit: Getty Images/Hill Street Studios

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost my home state of Michigan by just 10,704 votes.

There are 270,000 registered Muslim voters in Michigan. Those are serious numbers for a battleground state. If mobilized, Muslims could be a decisive factor on Nov. 3.

My work is to make that happen.

Born to Palestinian parents, I have dedicated much of my political life to southeast Michigan. I organized my own campaign for the Dearborn City Council, knocking on 4,000 doors. Before that, I was a field coordinator for Rep. Rashida Tlaib, now one of three Muslims in Congress.

Today, I head Emgage Michigan, my state's chapter of the nation's largest Muslim PAC. In this role, I organize voter turnout operations, which we run year-round, not only in Michigan but in other states like Virginia and Florida.

We also work to politically empower American Muslims — engaging candidates and elected leaders on the priorities of Muslim voters, which include domestic and foreign policy.

Indeed, because of my Palestinian identity, I see these issues as inseparable: The way we treat others abroad reflects on how we treat each other at home. That's why Emgage Michigan lobbied two state senators and nine representatives for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, as well as supporting Kashmiri rights and opposing the far-right, Hindu national regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India.

As a Palestinian, I am passionate about Kashmir because Palestinians suffer many of the same injustices that Kashmiris do. And those human rights violations, in turn, resemble and remind us of the situation many Americans face every day.

The American Muslim community is remarkably diverse. We are overwhelmingly Black or of Arab and Middle Eastern or South Asian ancestry. Many of us are immigrants and many of us are U.S.-born. Many of us are affected by racism, but all of us are affected by Islamophobia.

Because we have been marginalized, we are especially sensitive to the marginalization of others. A passion to right wrongs abroad and at home — and an awareness of the bleak overlap between the two — drives me forward.

We mobilize for Breonna Taylor. We mobilize for the immigrants down the street. We mobilize because so many in our communities, people of color, are pressed down by systemic injustices.

It is in that spirit, and with that conviction, that Emgage Michigan is putting its energy into statewide campaigns to mobilize Muslim voters. Though some of us are conservatives and others are progressives, it is our hope that Muslim voters contribute to a Biden-Harris victory. We know, of course, neither are perfect candidates.

For example, Joe Biden is not the ideal candidate on the issue of Palestine. But he's a world better than Donald Trump. Can you imagine President Trump even acknowledging us, let alone listening to us?

As it stands, whether Biden and Harris win depends on states like Michigan. And that in turn magnifies the importance of strong Muslim voter turnout.

But the election is not the conclusion. The Biden campaign has demonstrated a willingness to listen to Muslims. If he wins, it will be, in part, because of us. And therefore, if he wins, he can also expect to hear a lot more from us.

Nada Al-Hanooti is the executive director of Emgage Michigan. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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