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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora