Community Leaders Anticipate High Arab-American Voter Turnout

Kane Farabaugh
Arab-Americans make up roughly 0.5 percent of voters who will cast a ballot in the November general election in the United States. And a new poll shows more than half of them are likely to vote for President Barack Obama, over his rival Mitt Romney. In Dearborn, Michigan - home to the largest Arab-American community in the United States - their influence at the ballot box is growing, and Arab-American community leaders expect record voter turnout in November

Imam Hassan Qazwini had not witnessed a peaceful transition of power of government growing up in Iraq.  His first such experience came in the United States. “When I came and saw the peaceful transition of power from one President to another that was very impressive actually, and promising as well,” he said.
 
That promise has encouraged others to come from war torn and unstable countries to start new lives in the United States.
 
Imam Qazwini, now the leader of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, says members of the fastest growing religion in the United States - Islam - are also part of a voting bloc whose influence is steadily growing with each election.  “I think in this upcoming election, I believe we will witness the highest Arab-American, Muslim-American participation,” he stated.
 
That expected turnout is, in part, thanks to the efforts of people like Rachid Elabed.
 
As an Advocacy and Civic Engagement Specialist with the non-profit Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, also known as ACCESS, part of Elabed’s work is registering new U.S. citizens to vote.
 
He admits there are challenges in explaining U.S. voting procedures to immigrants.
 
 “They don’t understand they have the freedom of speech, freedom to vote, they are new to the process," Elabed explained. "And get intimidated and very scared because they’re not sure what to do and where to get their information.”
 
Some of that information comes from publications like the Arab-American News, run by Dearborn publisher Osama Siblani. “We come from countries that are governed by dictators and totalitarian regimes," he said. "So when you come here you have to give people time to start acclimating themselves to the idea of democracy - that you go out to vote and register to vote.”
 
One of the key concepts Rachid Elabed tries to convey to new voters is the importance of their participation in an election, despite the knowledge that Arab-Americans make up a small percentage of the voting public.  “The percentage can make a difference in the election,” Elabed said.
 
A difference that Imam Qazwini says favors President Obama in this year’s Presidential election. “Most Arab-Americans feel that Obama would be their primary choice," he added. "One - they find in him the most reasonable candidate.”  
 
But he is a candidate who is currently President in a country where unemployment is still very high. Michigan’s unemployment numbers are higher than the national average. Jobs are one of the most important issues to all voters, including Arab-Americans, and it is expected to be the defining issue in this year’s presidential race.
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs