The Democratic National Convention was held in North Carolina this past week as the presidential race moves into its final stages. The DNC is the presidential nomination convention which marks the end of the presidential primary season and beginning of campaigning for the general election. What was distinct about this year's convention was the record number of Muslim delegates that attended the conference.
CAIR said recent estimates place the number of Muslim delegates at more than 100, up from 43 Muslim and Arab-American delegates at the 2008 Democratic convention, and 25 at the 2004 convention.
This increase in numbers is indicative of the growing civic engagement from Muslims. This comes at a crucial time when faith and ideology are starting to play key roles in this year's elections.
Abortion, same-sex marriage and religious freedom are issues that have been repeatedly raised during this campaign. Faith of the candidates is also under strict surveillance. Romney tries to down play his Mormonism, while Obama struggles to affirm his Christianity given his father's association with Islam and now endorsement of same-sex marriage. The Democrats have also come under heat for lacking the word 'God' in their platform. This criticism was so severe that democrats voted to reinstate a line from the 2008 platform embracing “God-given potential”.
Civic engagement and political participation is becoming increasingly important for Muslims; we continue to fall behind in this area. I was speaking with a friend of mine who is currently organizing Obama's campaign and is responsible for researching and collecting polls. She expressed her disillusionment with the lack of participation from the Muslim community; many who don't even bother voting. She explained that it is due to this attitude that candidates don't bother going after the 'Muslim vote' in the way they try to chase the 'Jewish' or 'Hispanic' votes. This is despite our numbers being comparable to that of the Jewish community.
Organizing the Muslim community and presenting it as an important voting bloc is one of the main ways of gaining influence in Washington; and combating anti-Islamic rhetoric. Politicians currently don't worry about losing the 'Muslim vote' when expressing their xenophobic sentiments. Ludicrous stories about a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood can gain credibility because politicians aren't concerned about a backlash from the Muslim community. Our political disunity allows Islamophobes to advance their agenda;
changing it is thus incumbent upon us and a step towards responsible civic engagement.
Do you vote every election? Who are you voting for this year?
The featured image is of Basim ElKarra, a delegate from California and was taken by Shahed Amanullah from a video on CNN was taken during Representative Wexler's Israel, anti-Iran speech, Basim stood up and and waived a peace sign and yelled “We want peace now!'