Emgage Michigan celebrated its civic engagement work by holding its annual gala online this week using a virtual format and bringing in speakers from a broad spectrum of backgrounds.
All of the leading elected Michigan Muslims came out to support Emgage and its effort to galvanize the Muslim vote as the critical November election looms just a few weeks away. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib thanked Emgage for engaging Michigan Muslims, “who for a long time have not been seen and heard… and for advocating for policy changes that uplift all of our neighbors, not just our community.”
Michigan State University (MSU) Trustee Brian Mossalallem was the first Muslim in America to be elected to a statewide office in 2012. He talked about his commitment to public service, stemming from his father’s service in the US Air Force as part of the 82d Airborne. Brian, a former MSU football player, thanked Emgage and the Muslim community for uniting to help pave his path to office in 2012 and now in 2020 during an especially contentious nomination process in the primary.
State Rep Abdullah Hammoud called on Muslims to “not waste time with bickering and infighting. Rather, we should come together united because if we let ourselves be divided, we will fail not only in November, but we will fail for years to come.”
Another passionate speaker was Dr. Abdul El-Syed, a former candidate for governor.
Abdul challenged the community, “Are we willing to stand up for the truth? Are we willing to show up for our communities both in this country and abroad? Are we willing to meet our responsibility as a Muslim community? We are here today because Emgage as an organization has been empowering us to do just that.”
He called on the Muslim community to hold elected officials responsible for helping all Americans have healthier, safer lives. Other officials who spoke included Fayrouz Saad, appointed by the governor as the Director of Global Michigan. Farhan Bhatti, elected to the Lansing school board, soon to be State Representative, Abraham Ayaish, and Imam Mika’il Sadiq of the Imam’s Council of Michigan and Emgage Masjid Outreach Director.
Imam Mika’il Sadiq gave America the analogy being a big boat upon which Trump supporters and others disagree with residing.
“There are some who think the best way to get water is to knock a hole in the hull. But this will sink us all. We are all in the same boat, and we have to hold the hand of those who work to destroy our country, whatever their intentions maybe.”
Linda Sarsour, the community organizer and civil rights activist from Brooklyn, had the most emphatic call to the evening’s action. She warned Muslims everywhere, “this election will have consequences. I don’t have any affiliation with the Joseph Biden campaign, and thank the Lord; the Joe Biden campaign made that very clear. But this election I want you to vote for Breonna Taylor, vote for the Yemenis, the Somalis, Syrians who are separated from their families. vote for the babies at the border who were stripped from their mother’s arms, for the women who are being forced to have hysterectomies in detention centers in these United States. I want you to help elect Joe Biden and not the opponent Trump. I cannot fight fascists. You cannot move a fascist. Give me Joe Biden. He does not align with us on many issues, but if we elect Joe Biden, I promise you I will stay on these streets and fight harder than I ever have, even harder than I fought under the Trump administration.” Linda argued that we could obtain significant domestic and foreign policy changes under a Biden administration than a Trump administration, and urged participants to vote.
Emgage Michigan Executive Director, Nada Al-Hanooti was excited that the gala was successful, “We need to get Muslims energized and out to vote, and we are doing this in all the states we are based. Our gala and call to action reached a few thousand people today and we will keep amplifying the message. We need to recruit more volunteers and get more support for the final stretch!”
Michigan is a battleground state where Donald Trump won by only 10,700 votes in 2016. EMGAGE estimates that over 35,000 Michigan Muslims did not vote during that election. With an extensive civic engagement campaign, the Muslim vote increased by 25% in the 2018 primary, helping propel Congresswoman Rashida to victory in Michigan with a narrow margin of 500 votes more than her opponent at that time. This prompted Imam MIkhail Sadiq, the Masjid Outreach Director, to encourage everyone to work extra hard. “The Muslim community in Michigan needs to step up and win. Our votes do make a difference.”
Emgage has chapters in the major battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, and Virginia. Using databanks and analytic tools, they focus their work in critical areas where the large Muslim population can make a difference. “We have 125,000 Muslims in Wayne County alone, and that is our main target”, states Rexhi Nazarkho, part of the Emgage Michigan staff.
Nada estimates that Emgage is making approximately 25,000 calls and texts every week in Michigan. Emgage is also adopting this technology to reach Muslim voters in other key battleground states. “Our goal is to get 1 million Muslims across America to vote,” says Nada. “The donations and support coming in allow us to get closer to this goal.”
M. Muhammad Ahmed is a freelance writer for the TMO. He is a long time community activist and serves on the board of local nonprofits.