By Esra Kaymak Avci
BALTIMORE, United States
American Muslims are involved in this year’s presidential elections in greater numbers than in years past because of heightened Islamophobic rhetoric, the head of a voter education and advocacy group told Anadolu Agency.
“Definitely this year we are very, very active,” Naji Almontaser, who runs the York Muslim Voter and Information Club, said during the Convention of the Islamic Circle of North America-Muslim American Society, that was held in Baltimore, Maryland.
“If you take the last 10 years, I would say this year would accumulate the other 10. Everyone is on board.”
Much of the anti-Islamic language is being fueled by real estate developer Donald Trump -- the sole remaining Republican candidate in the race.
He has called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., claimed that Islam has “tremendous hatred” for the West and accused American Muslims of celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.
“This year we are more active, because you have people like Trump who are talking negative about everybody,” Almontaser said.
“At the end of the day we want people to recognize that they have the power to vote one person in or to vote one person out.”
With a population of about 3.3 million Muslims in the country, an umbrella group -- the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations -- has launched a One America Campaign to empower Muslims and it seeks to get 1 million Muslims to the polls.
“We really want to make a change because for many years the Muslim ummah, or Muslim community, of America has been very silent about voting and not very pro-active,” Almontaser said.
Muslims groups in the U.S. have launched voter registration drives in an effort to ensure Islamophobia is rejected at the polls.
According to a recent survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- the country’s largest Islamic civil rights group -- 73 percent of registered Muslim voters in six states said they would vote in primary elections.
In congressional election two years ago, 69 percent of Muslim voters in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas and Virginia said they would vote, according to a CAIR survey.
The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations has found growing Islamophobia to be the most important issue for Muslim voters in 2016. It was listed as third in the group’s 2014 survey.