The Michigan primaries are looming close and I have one request for my fellow Muslims: Please vote! With all that’s on the line and with all that is happening in our country today, the last thing we need is for our community to sit out another election because we feel that our vote doesn’t matter. Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election by 10,704 votes and the Muslim community could have done more to ensure that Trump didn’t become our president.
There are studies that indicate that Muslims are about as likely to vote as anybody else when they are registered to vote, but the overall national turnout rate was below any other marginalized groups in 2016 at 61%. That signals to me that our candidates and elected officials aren’t doing enough to actively engage with Muslims because they believe they don’t have to rely on their votes to win. More importantly, it tells me that my own community, who I want to see represented in Michigan and across the country, isn’t willing to get off the couch and vote.
Instead of putting ALL the blame on the Democratic Party for not performing outreach, the Muslim community needs to take some responsibility for the fact that many of them understand the concept of voting but do not take the extra step to storm the polls. The Democratic Party has a long way to go before Muslims are fully included, but I’m of the belief that we also have the power to express ourselves through our vote and can stop bigots from getting into office, Republican or otherwise.
I was a field organizer during the 2016 elections, and saw this lack of involvement first-hand. One day, I was doing voter registration at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn. I asked one veiled woman if she would register to vote, and she nonchalantly replied, “I don’t give a shit.” I left the campus with dozens of signed forms, but was still astonished at the fact that many students still didn’t seem to care and some of them clearly had no intention of voting in November, even though they were very soon going to be officially registered to vote. I also remember doing voter registration drives in a mosque and hearing from one lady that it was not within the realm of her conscience to vote for either candidate.
This is a serious problem. As minorities, Muslims cannot afford to sit out elections. And sure, one could argue that there was a unique energy in Muslims around the 2016 elections and that a #BlueWave is coming. But we can’t rely on it. It wasn’t enough to win Michigan before, and it won’t be in 2018 if we continue on the same path. Think about it: Do we really want someone like Patrick Colbeck, a senator who is notorious for Islamophobic rhetoric, to become our governor in 2019?
And while it’s true that candidates including Abdul El-Sayed, Fayrouz Saad, Rashida Tlaib, etc. are trying to change Michigan’s political landscape, we as Muslims also need to show up to the ballot box. Not necessarily to vote for the Muslim candidate, but to vote for the people who we believe will best represent us through their policy agendas. It would be great to have more Muslims (ergo diversity) in our government, but political empowerment comes in many forms and at all levels.
As Muslims, you should encourage everyone around you including your friends and family to go to the polls if they want to see an improvement in government. The people in office don’t just affect our ability to follow our faith. They pass laws that affect our environment, access to healthcare, our ability to get a good-paying job, and so much more.
And to my non-Muslim friends: Perhaps you have a Muslim friend who’s never voted before. Perhaps you’ve never thought about the importance of Muslims voting. But it’s time for Michigan politics to be more inclusive, and whether you are privileged or not, you have the responsibility to help make that happen. So this August 7th and November 6th, please vote!