By Mir Masum Ali
A young mother strolled in the lobby of York College Performing Arts Center, New York with her two and half year-old kid on the sunny afternoon of July 24, 2016. After filling out the sign-up sheet, she showed up straight to the table of voter registration and picked up flyers and badges imprinted with ‘Join the Million’ without any effort. The volunteer at the table happily welcomed the gesture and said, “Thank You.” “That’s for people living around me,” she returned a smile and headed to the main hall where some two hundred Muslim community leaders from different areas of New York were attending the the Muslim Leadership Convention of New York.
Addressing the convention, Secretary General of the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO); Oussama Jammal called upon the Muslim community leaders to engage people of all communities and faiths participating in the voter registration. “Our work is for the welfare of all our neighbors and communities. We are part of the great fabric of American diversity and it is our responsibility to contribute to the even a greater scale. Call people to register to vote, show up on the election day, and vote for whichever candidate they wish. Our campaign is for engaging more people in the civic engagement process so that they can exercise their constitutional rights,” he added.
Professor Hatem Bazian of University of California, Berkeley presented the ongoing situation of Islamophobia and how it is affecting the Muslims. With an engrossing eloquence, the professor said, “At this heightened time of election campaign, some are trying to instill fear against communities and Muslims are the primary targets. The bigots want the notorious rhetoric of terror to be conflated with religion. Spreading positivity should be the response of hate-mongering.”
Several other speakers including the president of the Muslim Leadership Council of New York, Dr. Abdelahfid Djemil, addressed the convention. The convention also touched on the issue of Muslim women’s role in advancing human rights, Muslims in American history, education and political engagements in the community and so on. Young women and men made an impressive presence in the convention.
To facilitate USCMO’s One America Campaign and registration of one million new voters, the grass roots Muslim leaders decided to set up promotion tables in community corners, carry out door to door campaigns, participate in social gatherings and reach out to religious congregations of different faith groups.
Following the event, volunteers set up tables at a residential area of Manhattan in the last week of July. They distributed voter registration forms, showed how to register to vote and helped filling up the forms. They also responded to questions from the pedestrians and neighbors about the electoral process.
So far over 10,000 voter registration forms have been distributed to individuals in New York state. Voter registration drives were also carried out in Upstate New York, Buffalo, Syracuse and other places. Volunteers have pulled out registration programs in mosques in New York City, where about 25 mosques have already signed up.
The USCMO volunteers are also reaching out different communities in their summer amusement programs. People are arranging social gathering including collective tours and picnics where the volunteers are seen with USCMO hats and badges and encouraging people to register and vote.