Politicians across America are making calculations about which blocs of voters to court as they seek the votes needed to win their respective elections on November 6. Greater political engagement among Muslim Americans is drawing the attention of politicians in Brooklyn, New York.
The Arab-American Association of New York recently held a Meet the Candidates forum at a school auditorium in Brooklyn. The event offered the public an opportunity to grill candidates for local office and to register to vote.
Singer-songwriter Omnia Hegazy, a first generation Muslim American, says casting a ballot helps address what she says is the ignorance of many politicians about her community.
“They’re not aware of the racial profiling, the things that we go through, the scrutiny that we go through on a daily basis, and I think it would be in their interest to actually learn about our community and what are we, who are we, and how we are just as American as anybody else," he said.
Tom McCarthy is a Republican running for the New York State Assembly. He admitted he knows little about allegations that New York police spied on Muslim-Americans based on their religion. But he said he is willing to listen to his Muslim constituents.
“They are an immigrant community primarily, and many people are not yet registered to vote, but I think that will change as time goes on and more and more of the community obtain their citizenship and register to vote," he said.
McCarthy is trying to unseat incumbent Alec Brook-Krasny, a Democrat who is himself an immigrant. He came from Russia and says his support for Muslim religious freedom is based on his desire as a Jew for that same freedom.
“If we start taking freedoms from some groups, if we start taking freedoms from each other, it’s not going to be a country we all came to, it’s not going to be a country of the American dream. We just cannot do it," he said.
Linda Sarsour directs the Arab American Association of New York. She says her organization registered more than 2000 new Muslim voters in one of Brooklyn’s electoral districts.
“We are going to be at the polls, and we want to make sure our elected officials that are going to be taking these positions are keeping these positions," she sadi.
In other words, the Arab American Association hopes to make sure, through its voting clout, that politicians deliver on their promises.