WASHINGTON: As the presidential election in world’s most important country enters the final week with still no clear indication of a possible winner, Pakistani and Muslim Americans have geared up their efforts to ensure success of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Republican candidate Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslim immigrations and his anti-Muslim rhetoric has mobilised Muslims to an unprecedented scale during the current elections doubling the number of their registered voters to more than one million, a record figure.
“This is a now or never time for us. The Muslim community has to make its presence count through the ballot,” said Saqib Nisar, a Pakistani American who is mobilising other Pakistanis in support of Hillary. “We are going door to door, mosque to mosque to ask our fellow Muslims and Pakistanis to participate in this decisive election as they will determine our rights in this great country,” he said.
The US Council of Muslim Organisations, an umbrella group of two dozen Muslim advocacy organisations announced this week that over one million American Muslims have registered to vote in the November 8 US elections.
Experts say the record registered Muslim voters may decide the race in some key battle states.
We believe we’ve exceeded the one million mark,” said Oussama Jammal, secretary general of the group. “We’ve been mobilising the community with voter registrations at mosques, schools and community events. That’s how we were able to make a difference this year."
There is little doubt about the favourite candidate of Muslim voters. A fresh survey conducted by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based advocacy organisation shows that 72 percent of registered Muslim voters planned to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, while only 4 percent said they would cast their ballots for Trump.
The one million voter drive was launched last December after Republican candidate Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration. To get more Muslims to vote, Muslim groups set up registration booths at more than 2,500 mosques, 500 schools and a multitude of community centers throughout the year.
“Imams have been instructed to give sermons about the importance of voting and participation in the public life," Jammal said in an interview with Voice of America here.
Speaking to The News, political expert and Associate professor at the University of Maryland Sahar Khamis said American Muslims are taking current elections very seriously and for the first time they were participating very actively in political process. “They know the importance of this election for their future,” she said.
Pakistanis are also expressing apprehensions about possible US policy for south Asian country under Trump. “Trump will be dangerous for Pakistan. No one knows his plans about the country,” said Shuja Nawaz founding director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council and now a distinguished fellow at the Center. Talking to The News, he said Hillary Clinton will also be tough leader as far as Pakistan is concern as she had in past spoken about the country in tough tone. “However, Pakistani policy makers know about Hillary and they can deal with her more easily than someone who is a complete stranger”, Nawaz said. There are some 3.3 million Muslims living in America, representing roughly one percent of the US population, according to Pew Research. About 1.5 million Muslims are eligible to vote. Large numbers of Muslims live in predominantly Democratic states – California, New York and New Jersey - where Clinton is already ahead. However, there are also relatively large Muslim communities in several key battleground states - Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia - where polls show a tightening race. But even there, the number of Muslim voters is miniscule relative to the general electorate. Going by traditionally Muslim sounding names, CAIR estimates there are 15,000 registered Muslim voters in Pennsylvania, 25,000 in Florida and 27,000 in Michigan.
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