In an election year filled with anti-Muslim vitriol, some mosques are urging their worshipers to vote in an attempt to make their voices heard. To do so, they're borrowing a strategy used by African-American churches and organizing "souls to the polls" campaigns.
Many mosques have traditionally shunned politics. As recently as the late 1990s, Muslim scholars were divided on the ethics of voting. For years, it was common for many Muslim-Americans to not exercise their voting rights. But this year, three of Nashville's biggest mosques are busing worshipers to the polls. The organizers say this is more about demonstrating the importance of voting than providing transportation.
On a recent Friday afternoon at the Islamic Center of Nashville, Tenn., just after the end of prayers, a crowd gathered around a table where sample ballots sit next to a book of Islamic scripture. Tamanna Qureshi was there, telling them about a website where they can find out more about their district, as well as find candidates' answers to surveys. Qureshi, 41, grew up in Nashville, the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, and has attended the mosque since she was a child. Now, she's a volunteer with the League of Women Voters.
Voter outreach groups have been working mosques for years, trying to overcome a bias against voting among many Muslims and immigrants. A common excuse is one that Qureshi heard from her own parents.
"There was this feeling of, are we meddling in something that's not our business?" Qureshi said. "Of course, my response is, 'It's absolutely your business. You're living here. You're paying taxes. You're a citizen. And this is what you need to do to participate fully in the community.' "
This election year in particular, many Muslims say they feel like they've become pawns in a political game. Candidates score points by blaming them for violence perpetrated by other people, both on the national level and locally. In Tennessee, Muslims have faced state legislation aimed at their community on a regular basis. Those include bills banning Sharia law and attacking perceived pro-Muslim bias in school textbooks.
Continue reading at: National Public Radio (NPR)