NPR reports that local politics across the country have seen an increase in Muslim candidates running for office.
Nadeem Mazen is Massachusetts’ first elected Muslim official, winning a city council seat in 2013. Since then, he says he has seen Islamophobic “venom” increase. “If you’re a visible Muslim … you’ll be a target 100 % of the time,” said the councilman. So he decided to do something about it and in 2015, started a nonprofit called JetPac which helps Muslims get more politically involved.
JetPac’s training includes educating potential candidates to lead canvassing and phone campaigns, to analyze local issues, and to respond to hate language that targets their race or religion – all skills Mr. Mazen learned on the job. The councilman teaches his candidate-trainees that “operating on the positive” is the most effective way to combat bigotry. He suggests “facing the hate speech head on, and then flipping the conversation back to the actual service to the community and back to the actual [elected] role in question.”
Sayu Bhojwani, executive director of the New American Leaders Project (NALP), says her organization has seen more South Asian, Arab-American and Muslim citizens decide to run for office in the New York area. “When your civil rights are under attack,” says Ms. McCaw, “grab hold of the constitution and assert yourself.” Robert McCaw, director of government affairs at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), concurs. “Muslims didn’t ask to be dragged into the spotlight, but now that we’re there and we need to push back. Getting into elected offices is one of the best means.”
Update on story: Nadeem Mazen announced on Oct 2nd that he is running for congress, specifically the seat of retiring Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who represents Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District.