By Nargis Rahman, TMO
The Michigan Muslim Democratic Caucus met with democratic politicians to address local and international concerns among American Muslims on March 10. The gathering was held hours before the Michigan Democratic Partyâ€™s endorsement convention at Cobo Hall.
Mitchell Shamsud-din, second vice chair of MMDC, said the caucus was a way for Michigan Muslims and politicians to understand each otherâ€™s roles and responsibilities. He said, American Muslims canâ€™t be standoffish about politics. â€œWe have to engage our folks to protect our interests and be a part of government.â€
American Muslims informed politicians on issues ranging from disapproval of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the detention of suspected terrorists without a trial, profiling and anti-Shariah law sentiment. Bangladeshi and Syrian Americans who attended the caucus said they wanted the congressmen to stand against human rights violations in Bangladesh and Syria.
In Bangladesh people who try to express themselves are met with police brutality, said President of Bangladeshi American Forum, Waliur Rahman. People are tortured, journalists are killed, and political leaders have been imprisoned by the International War Crimes Tribunal court, which â€œformed illegallyâ€ and handles domestic cases, he said.
In Syria, thousands of protestors and civilians were killed retaliations President Bashar al-Assadâ€™s regime since last March. The United Nations predicts 7,500 civilian deaths in the year-long battle. A few days ago The New York Times reported about 50 civilians were massacred in the city of Homs, as a message to stay away from the rebellion hot-spot. A petition was signed and presented to congressmen during the caucus to request action on behalf of Syrian Americans.
MMDC provided a platform to put these issues on the radar, said MMDC Secretary, Muzammil Ahmed.
Ahmed said many participants in the caucus were newcomers, who he hopes will continue to stay informed and involved in the November 2012 election process. He encourages participation in the upcoming voter action activities such as Capitol Day on May 16, where voters can meet state legislators.
The next step is to capitalize on attendees and members, to engage socially in their communities and find candidates among themselves to run for office by 2014, said MMDC Chair Shahid Tahir. Elected officials can help the political process by educating and activating qualified American Muslims to run for elected positions. We, â€œGive votes, in return we want some positions given to Muslims in their staff and in Washington D.C.,â€ he said.
Tahir said, â€œIf weâ€™re not on the table weâ€™re going to be on the menu.â€
Board members said 150 Somalian, Bangladeshi, Indo-Pak, African-Americans and Arab Americans were at the caucus. Bussing was available for people from Flint, Ann Arbor, Detroit and Franklin, Michigan. If we continue to work and grow in numbers, we will be a voice thatâ€™s heard, said Board Member of MMDC, Syed Mohiuddin.
This is the second time MMDC participated in the annual democratic convention. The group was organized by Michigan American Muslims who participated in President Obamaâ€™s 2008 election bid, and felt the need to come together, said Ahmed.
MMDC has not endorsed candidates US Congressmen D-Mich. Hansen Clarke or D-Mich. Gary Peters, who have both enjoyed and supported the Muslim community, and are now running against each other in a revamped voting districts.
Mohiuddin said, people can further participate by joining local governments, visiting social media pages for MMDC, â€œliking us on Facebook,â€ or visiting the website www.mimuslimdems.com to stay involved.