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Michigan Muslims want a greater turnout in the November election

Jul 18, 2016

  In Cleveland later this morning, a coalition of Muslim groups plan to hold a news conference to "Challenge the GOP’s  'Politics of Fear'."

Concern about growing islamophobia has led to a push to get more Muslim Michiganders to the polls in November. 

Last month, services at mosques in Michigan were crowded with people observing Ramadan.

On the final Friday of Ramadan, as worshippers gathered at a mosque in Canton, they were greeted by volunteers trying to get them registered to vote.

Rabab Qamar helped organize the voter registration drive.    She says speeches by presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump talking about banning Muslim immigrants and other Republicans calling for surveillance of mosques has disturbed Muslims. 

“One party has been almost ostracizing Muslims with their rhetoric," says Qamar, "I think it’s kind of pushed a lot of people from the Muslim community out to vote.”

Traditionally, Arab and Muslim Americans vote in smaller numbers.   There’s a few reasons for this, including the fact that many are recent immigrants.   

But different groups are trying to change that.

Robert McCaw is the government affairs director for the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR.    He says CAIR estimates there’s been a 60% increase in the number of Muslim Americans registered to vote in the United States since 2012.

“Voter registration just didn’t start happening in 2016," says McCaw. "The community has been putting a lot of resources over the years in increasing our political and civic participation. I think this is just some of the fruits of that labor.”

McCaw says Michigan’s voter rolls have seen the number of Muslim and Arab voters grow to about 55,000. 

Polls show Muslim voters are more likely to vote for Democrats. 

But Michigan Republican Party State Chairwoman Ronna Romney-McDaniel says the GOP has a message she believes can convince Muslims voters to support Republican candidates.  

“Our policies are going to help everyone," says Romney-McDaniel. "We want people to have jobs. We want Michigan to continue to rise. We don’t to lose the comeback that we’ve just started in this short period of time of Republican leadership since 2010. We want to keep that going.”

Romney-McDaniel, who’s a Trump delegate at this week’s convention in Cleveland, defends the presumptive nominee’s call to block refugees from Islamic countries where terrorism is active. 

While the 2016 presidential campaign is spurring many Muslim Michiganders to get involved, there are some Muslim leaders looking beyond the November election. 

On a sunny day this Spring in Lansing, dozens of people took part in the sixth annual Muslim Day at the state capitol.

Muzammil Ahmed is the chairperson of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. He organized the event where Michigan Muslims share their concerns with state lawmakers. He says many Republican legislators declined to meet with them. 

Ahmed hopes the current political climate will help create an atmosphere where people can have a frank conservation about what it means to be an American.

“We are here not to do it for just the Muslim community," says Ahmed. "Many people have been feeling maligned and have been feeling isolated because of the environment and rhetoric that’s been out there currently.”

Ironically, Ahmed credits Donald Trump for inspiring many Muslims to register and vote for the first time, if just to vote against him.