Can Muslims Become Strong Voice in US Elections 2020?

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SHAFAQNA– The young Muslim political community says it has all the tools at its disposal to turn the almost 3.5 million Muslims in the United States into a powerful political bloc going into November’s presidential elections.

US President Donald Trump’s actions in the first weeks of 2020 sent a clear signal about what lies ahead this election year. From ordering the assassination of top Iranian general, despite the US not being formally at war Iran, to threatening to bomb the country’s cultural sites protected under international law, the twitter-loving leader is sure to make 2020 just as unstable, chaotic, and dangerous as every previous year of his presidency.

This year’s elections will not only serve as a potential turning point for the country’s leadership – as Democrats are hoping to oust Trump – but as a turning point for Muslim Americans as well. Others say Muslim candidates need to take advantage of this critical moment in the history of the country, not just to oust Trump but to bring Americans together. “It’s not really anger against Trump, but a kind of urgency for community, the urgency to heal American society,” said Abbas Barzegar, director of research and advocacy for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“What you’ll also see is that Muslims will carry the election in 2020, especially in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania,” Gula, who also serves as Emgage’s executive director for Virginia, told Middle East Eye. The three states Gula is referring to are so-called swing states that may have an enormous effect in deciding the next president. All three fell to Trump in 2016. Gula added that if the electoral map remains the same in 2020 as in 2016, Democrats can win the presidency by flipping those three Midwestern states, with Muslims playing a key role.

Iowa, a mostly rural state of just over 3 million people, plays a major role in presidential elections as the first primary contest in the nation. Winning Iowa would be a major boost for the Democratic candidates looking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the general elections. Four years ago, Mohamed Ali, a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign, said it was hard getting those in his community to take part in caucuses in the US state of Iowa. “They just didn’t have the confidence” or they felt uncomfortable, Ali, who is a Palestinian-American real estate agent in the Des Moines area, told Al Jazeera by phone. Others, he said, didn’t want to be involved in politics for fear of being targeted or discriminated against. But this year participation of the Arab-Muslim community “has been huge … it’s been really amazing”, he said. For the first time Islamic centres will serve as sites for the party gatherings where Iowans openly discuss and choose their preferred Democratic candidate in the US 2020 presidential election.

Muslim participation comes at a time of heightened Islamophobia

Their participation comes at a time of heightened discrimination and Islamophobia across the US. According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s (ISPU) annual Islamophobia index, Islamophobia is on the rise in the US. The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes and bias incidents surged after US President Donald Trump took office in 2017. The Council on American-Islamic Relations attributed the spike to Trump’s travel ban, which targets nationals from several Muslim-majority countries, his frequent anti-Muslim comments, and other policies targeting Muslims.

This includes the president’s repeated attacks against Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim congresswomen. Those policies have, in turn, spurred increased political engagement by Muslims across the US. According to Emgage, a US-based organisation dedicated to increasing civic participation, Muslim Americans turned out for the 2018 midterm elections in historic numbers.

Trump reinforced the idea that Islam is a threat to the US

Trump was again criticized for promoting anti-Muslim sentiments and for being a social media troll who spreads false information. The image was, presumably, meant to criticize Pelosi and other Democrats for questioning Trump’s order to kill the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by positioning Pelosi and Schumer as defending America’s “enemy” — Iran, Dornsife told. It’s not the first time Trump has promoted Islamophobia. With rhetoric like “Islam hates us” and policies such as banning the entry of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, Trump has reinforced the idea that Islam is a threat to the U.S.

In this year’s election campaign, we can expect more rampant Islamophobia. Just days after the third anniversary of the Muslim ban, the Trump administration announced an expansion of the discriminatory policy, which now includes Myanmar, Nigeria, Eriteria, and Kyrgyzstan. Individuals from Sudan and Tanzania will also be barred from receiving the diversity visa lottery. All of these countries have a sizable Muslim population.

Trump knows what his base likes so he continues to feed it to them. A 2019 Brookings article found that “intolerance of Islam is one hallmark of Trump supporters, setting them apart from other Republicans in the electorate”, according to Alaraby.

US Muslims may replace Jews as the second-largest religious group in 2040

Muslims do not make up a large proportion of voters. Overall, the Muslim population in the US is almost 3.5 million, about one percent of the total population, according to the Pew Research Center. Still, they are one of the fastest-growing religious groups in the country. By 2040, Muslims may replace Jews as the second-largest religious group in the US, Pew says.

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