By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Hundreds of Michigan residents stood outside the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center on July 29 for a rally to increase Muslim voter turnout for the 2018 elections.
The rally was organized by MPower Change Action and Emgage Action, and headlined by Democratic Michigan gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed and Democratic New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Attendees at rally were given the opportunity to meet with current elected officials and also Muslim candidates running for office in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States.
“Groups hosting the event believe Michigan needs unprecedented voter turnout from the Muslim community and progressive allies to upend the anti-Muslim policies across the country,” a press release promoting the event read.
Activists, elected officials and candidates at the rally were MPower Change Action Founder Linda Sarsour, Democratic Michigan congressional candidates Rashida Tlaib and Fayrouz Saad, state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-15th District), Democratic state House candidate Fatou-Seydi Sarr, Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid and ACCESS National Network for Arab American Communities Director Ahmad Abuznaid.
Tlaib spoke to the crowd about her chance to make history as the nation’s first Muslim congresswoman.
“My election is going prove to the world, to the country that we belong here,” Tlaib said. “That we are so much more patriotic, so much more American, so much more loving, caring and everything that makes us so beautiful. It’s because all of you behind me. I can’t believe I tied for first place.”
According to a recent Target-Insyght poll she is in a dead heat with Democratic candidates Bill Wild and Brenda Jones in the Michigan 13th Congressional District race.
Hammoud addressed the crowd starting off with a joke saying that the primary election was not like the Eid holiday celebrated by Muslims because the voting date cannot change based on the moon, the way the holiday is determined.
“I want to talk to you all about Dr. Abdul El-Sayed for a minute,” he continued. “This individual is advocating for the policies and values we all hold dearly.”
El-Sayed then spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to vote. He also said that no matter where he traveled in Michigan, people asked similar questions.
“When I decided to run I took bet on an idea,” he said. “An idea that it didn’t matter the color of your skin, didn’t matter how you pray, didn’t matter what your name was, didn’t matter who you love — the challenges we face in this state right now, we share them collectively. Poor, working, retired people. We’re talking about the same issues.”
Sarsour fired up the crowd with an “I believe in Michigan” speech.
“I believe that Michigan is going to sweep the nation,” she said. “You are going to inspire people who are hurting, whose hearts are broken based on the fascist policies of this administration. You are going to re-instill hope in people that do no believe in the Democratic process. It is you, Michigan. Eyes on you in every corner in this country.”
The rally offered an opportunity to register to vote and information from additional hosts: Women’s March, Michigan Muslim Community Council, Michigan United, National Network for Arab American Communities, Women’s March Michigan, Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan, Asian Pacific Islander American Vote, Universal Muslim Association of America and Arab American Institute.
Along with meeting candidates, attendees at the rally were also able to enjoy free games, food, a bounce house, henna tattoos, face painting and more.
For more information on the upcoming election and races in Michigan go to www.lwvmi.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)