American Muslims must build on efforts to expand political Engagement

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The 2016 Election cycle, which saw several candidates marginalize Muslims for their own political benefit & ratings, could prove to be a watershed moment in terms of promoting activism among American Muslims.
While the election is long gone, it has created negative impressions about the community with manifestations, including some hate groups’ running smear campaigns and others resorting to vandalism of mosques or attacking Muslim girls and  ladies wearing headscarves.
At the same time, displaying American spirit of pluralism the American society at large and several mainstream media outlets have defended Muslims as being part and parcel of the United States with their representation in the nation’s most important institutions like medicine, academia, research and security to name a few.
But the heightened political season has also helped open new vistas for political expressions and social activism as well as discussion on subjects like pluralism,  inclusiveness in the light of the U.S. Constitution and laws that guarantee these freedoms for all citizens. However, still the Muslims political awareness, engagement and participation is quite minimal
A report on The Atlantic magazine website this week said around three dozen Muslims ran for local offices in the Chicago area for the April 4 municipal elections, signaling that many in the community have decided not to stay content as participants from afar as voters but take part in the political arena as candidates.

Ilhan Omar Phtoto by Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most prominent and successful examples of American Muslims invigorating their participation in the political process came when Ilhan Omar, a Somali American, was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Her election is particularly heartening for American Muslims since her victory was made possible by mainstream Americans who voted in large numbers to elect Omar.
Yet, it is a fact that American Muslims have very little representation at local, state and national levels of legislature and administration. Recently, the first Muslim member of the House of Representative, Congressman Keith Ellison contested election for the leadership of Democratic Party. Although, he lost the election, his participation signaled prospects for potential new space for American Muslims on the American political scene.
In Washington Metro area, New York, California and several other places institutions and mosques have also stepped up community outreach with social welfare and educational programs to build grassroots relations. Taken together, these developments indicate a newfound Muslim activism and the community’s search for a political voice which has to expand quite substantially in coming years.
At American Muslim Institution, we believe that such efforts need to be highly encouraged and sustained, and that the community must expand its outreach at the local level to raise awareness about their faith and take part in interfaith and civic activities.
That way America’s diverse and mainstream communities will learn more about the Muslim community, which among immigrant communities has fared more successfully in economic and educational fields. We cannot let incidents of violence taking place anywhere in the restive parts of the world to define Muslims in America. As a voice for American Muslims, the AMI encourages millions of hardworking and skilled American Muslims to tell their success stories and how they contribute America’s success and development.
The AMI is planning soon to host a series of interfaith and educational programs and events to provide a platform for enlightened discussion and engagement between Muslim Americans and mainstream Americans.
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