Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Message for 2016: "your vote does make a difference ..."

Congratulations to Bernie Sanders (and his hard working campaigners) on his unexpected win in the Michigan Democratic primary yesterday! In a two candidate race, polls are usually pretty accurate; Sanders beat the polls by 20 points. Something happening here ...

Browsing through returns, I remembered that Dearborn, MI, a city of 90,000 in the Detroit metro area, is home to the most concentrated Arab-American population in the country. Arabic-speaking immigrants first came from Lebanon; these pioneers were largely Christians. More recent arrivals have been Muslims from Yemen, Palestine and Iraq.

In the era of Donald Trump, the Muslims live in fear according to interviews in the Daily Beast.

Among the halal restaurants, the meat markets, and the hookah bars of this working-class Detroit suburb, the topic of Donald Trump is terrorizing the local population.

The businessman and Republican presidential frontrunner is the foremost topic of conversation in Dearborn, a town with one of the highest concentration of Muslims in America and that boasts the country’s largest mosque. Its inhabitants can’t stop talking about the real-estate mogul, who has proposed a ban on Muslims entering the country and normalized extreme rhetoric against the religious group.

... “A lot of people are terrified, if you want the truth. One of his main campaign points is targeting Muslims. And already we feel like we’re targeted, even with a Democratic president for eight years,” said Muna Jondy, an immigration lawyer in Michigan. “American Muslims think there is a possibility of Trump starting internment camps. I am personally not afraid, but I know there is that sentiment in our community. It is a reflection and indictment of our nation.”

Whether justified or not, the fact that American Muslims take seriously the concept of internment camps is a signal that reflects their real concern about their place. ...

And so, the Arab and Muslim population of the area are doing what newcomer communities have always tried to do: getting involved in the political process for self-defense. I wrote yesterday about Roman Catholic efforts to spur naturalization and registration among Latino immigrants. In the Detroit area, sermons in Islamic institutions are pushing the same imperative. This was preached at the Az-Zahraa Islamic Center in Detroit last Friday.

Muslims need to participate heavily in the election. For those citizens who have not registered so far, they need to register so they can be eligible for voting. ... we also have to participate in the primaries. ... and I say, we should not underestimate our vote... your vote does make a difference; always it does make a difference. ... who to vote for? I don't need to tell you ... you are smart, you are intelligent, you know who to vote for ...

Video of this English language appeal is here.

Bernie Sanders campaigned in Dearborn on Monday alongside Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, himself a Muslim. Enthusiastic Bernie supporters appealed to voters outside polling places according to a Detroit Free Press account. They stressed Bernie's call for free college tuition as well as his repudiation of bigotry. Though Clinton has spoken out against Islamophobia, some Arab-Americans are not ready to forget that she voted to invade Iraq in 2002.

So how did Dearborn vote? The Arab capital of the United States opted for the elderly Jew! Turnout was nearly 35 percent (not bad for a primary). Among Democrats, Bernie won nearly 60 percent, 20 points ahead of Clinton. Something happening here ...

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