Biden also reiterated a pledge to overturn a Trump administration ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, calling it “vile.”
Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage Action, said by email that the organization was seeking to maximize Muslim American turnout in key battleground states. In Michigan alone — one of the states where the organization has chapters and where Trump won in 2016 by fewer than 11,000 votes — he said he believed there are more than 150,000 registered Muslim voters.
Several prominent Muslim American elected officials endorsed Biden for president in a letter organized by Emgage Action ahead of the summit.
Among those who signed the letter are Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, all Democrats. Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, served as a high-profile surrogate for Bernie Sanders before he exited the presidential race in April — making her support for Biden potentially helpful as the former vice president seeks to mobilize Muslim voters this fall.
“Muslim American voices matter to our communities, to our country,” Biden said. “But we all know that your voice hasn’t always gotten recognized or represented.”
Emgage Action has titled the event “Million Muslim Votes,” underscoring its emphasis on boosting Muslim turnout in November.
“Joe Biden’s presence serves not only to galvanize Muslim Americans to cast their ballots, but to usher in an era of engaging with Muslim American communities under a Biden administration,” Alzayat said by email before the summit.
The pro-Biden letter from Muslim American elected officials decried a number of Trump’s domestic and international policies, including his administration’s travel ban and his pullout from the Iran nuclear deal.
“A Biden administration will move the nation forward on many of the issues we care about,” the letter said, citing racial justice, affordable health care, climate change and immigration.
The Muslim American officials also praised Biden’s agenda for their communities. Among other goals, Biden has vowed to rescind the travel ban affecting Muslims “on Day One” if he’s elected.
In his address, he pledged to include Muslim American voices in his administration, if elected, and to speak out against human rights abuses against Muslim minorities around the world.
“I’ll continue to champion the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to have a state of their own as I have for decades, each of them a state of their own,” he said.
Other state- and local-level Muslim American officials signing onto the pro-Biden letter hail from several states, including Michigan.
“A lot is at stake,” Alzayat said. “The importance of Muslim American voter participation in this upcoming election cycle is greater than it has ever been.”
Trump’s reelection campaign, meanwhile, has included Muslim voters in its faith outreach on behalf of an incumbent who has prioritized religious liberty in his agenda.
“President Trump understands that our faith is what unites us as a nation,” Courtney Parella, deputy national press secretary for the reelection campaign, said in a statement. “He has and will continue to staunchly defend religious freedoms for all Americans.”
Omar’s signature on the endorsement letter expands on her statement last week, via Twitter, that she would vote for Biden. New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — another member of the quartet of congresswomen of color, often known by the nickname “the Squad,” who have become progressive luminaries since their arrival in Congress — also has said she would vote for Biden in the fall.
But Ocasio-Cortez, who served on a task force that helped shape a climate change plan designed to unite Biden and Sanders backers, has yet to issue a full-throated Biden endorsement. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, another “Squad” member and former backer of Sanders’ presidential bid, was conspicuously absent from the Emgage Action-organized letter.
Farooq Mitha, senior adviser for Muslim engagement with Biden’s campaign, said reaching out to Muslim American voters is a priority for Biden, pointing to his own appointment as an example. The campaign has hosted events with Muslim Americans and met with community leaders over the past months, he said.
“A Biden presidency offers Muslims an opportunity to be engaged with government, rather than being shut out like many other groups that have been alienated and demonized by the Trump administration,” he said in response to emailed questions. “Muslim communities can have an outsized impact in many states and we are working every day to earn their support.”
Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.