News / USA

US Candidates Reach Out to Arab-American Voters

Recent poll shows trend toward Democrats

Virginia Congressman Jim Moran addresses Arab-American voters at a recent candidates' night event.
Virginia Congressman Jim Moran addresses Arab-American voters at a recent candidates' night event.

Multimedia

Audio
Mohamed Elshinnawi

With less than three weeks to go before election day, candidates around the country are stepping up their efforts to reach voters.

In northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., Congressional candidates attended a forum which was organized for Arab-American voters.

Civil, religious freedoms

The controversy over the proposed Islamic Cultural Center in New York City was a hot topic at the candidates night, and one that Democratic and Republican candidates agreed on. They assured Arab-American voters that they back civil and religious freedoms. The audience responded to Democratic Rep. Jim Moran's statement with a standing ovation.

"I felt so strongly that the Islamic Center which was headed by a very moderate thoughtful Imam, which would have housed places of worship for all the major Abrahamic religions, should have been located exactly where it was going to be located because that is the message we send to the rest of the world," he said.

Republican Robert Gasiewicz expressed support for the building of an Islamic cultural center in New York City.
Republican Robert Gasiewicz expressed support for the building of an Islamic cultural center in New York City.

Moran's challenger for his seat in Congress is Republican Patrick Murray, who sent his campaign media director, Robert Gasiewicz, to the event on his behalf.

"No government should be stepping in to tell one religion or another what they should and should not do, what they should and should not build," said Gasiewicz. "And, quite frankly, it has been part of our heritage that people came across the ocean to escape religious persecution in England. They wanted to worship freely here."

Favoring Democrats

Virginia's Arab-American Candidates Night has been a tradition since 1987. It is a bi-partisan event, but a recent survey of Arab-American voters shows they favor Democratic candidates by a two to one margin.

Saba Shami (left), founder of the Arab American Democratic Caucus, speaks with Virginia Congressman Jerry Connolly (right).
Saba Shami (left), founder of the Arab American Democratic Caucus, speaks with Virginia Congressman Jerry Connolly (right).

Jamil Elshami, founder of Arab American Republicans of the Greater Washington area, acknowledged that Arab-American still support President Barack Obama's efforts to reach out to the Arab and Muslim world:

"President Obama talked about issues that both Arab-American Republicans and Arab-American Democrats related to," he said. "And therefore, even though our view is that his intentions have been obstructed, Arab-Americans still have the hope that in the second half of his administration hopefully he can do something."

According to Elshami, Arab-Americans tend to vote on the issues and not for one political party or the other. However, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly argued that there is a shift towards his party.

"In recent years, the Arab-American community has re-assessed its political alignment," said Connolly. "Frankly, it has found a much more welcoming home in the Democratic party in terms of appreciation for diversity, tolerance - whether it be religious tolerance, whether it be tolerance for different ethnicities - so I think we have seen a real sea-change in the Arab-American community attitudes about the two parties and a lot more affinity for the Democratic party."

The bipartisan effort to mobilize Arab-American voters is called 'Yalla Vote,' which means, 'Come on, Vote.'
The bipartisan effort to mobilize Arab-American voters is called 'Yalla Vote,' which means, 'Come on, Vote.'

'Yalla Vote'

Voter turnout is traditionally low for a midterm election, when presidential candidates are not on the ballot. Arab-American political activists are doing their part to mobilize voters.

"Calling people by doing phone banks. We print flyers, multi-lingual flyers. We do Arabic and English because some elements of our community are not proficient in Arabic," said Saba Shami, founder of the Arab American Democratic Caucus. "And we use some of the media available to us. In the past we used to have a local TV station, but currently there is not one, but there is a newspaper so that is another venue. We publish it in the form of an ad so we can talk about the campaigns as information for the community."    

Arab-American activists are hosting similar candidates nights all over the country. In some states, they're also organizing events to show Arab-American voters how to use new voting machines.

Their slogan, three weeks before the mid-term election, is "Yalla Vote", which means, "Come on, Vote."

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid