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Biden to speak to the nation’s largest Muslim American PAC

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has made moves toward activists who were skeptical of him during the primary. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Joe Biden will address the nation’s largest Muslim American PAC on Monday, as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee continues to reach out to groups he didn’t court during the primary.

Emgage Action, the political arm of a 14-year-old Muslim outreach organization, will host Biden at its Million Muslim Votes Summit, held online. The conference comes 11 months after just two then-Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former HUD secretary Julián Castro, attended the Islamic Society of North America’s convention. Emgage had criticized the two dozen Democrats, like Biden, who found somewhere else to be.

“Muslim American communities are organizing like never before to maximize our voter turnout, and to ensure that our voices are represented,” Wa’el Alzayat, the chief executive of Emgage Action, said in a statement. “The Million Muslim Votes Summit is the culmination of this work, and it is with great honor that Vice President Joe Biden is partnering with Emgage Action to engage with Muslim American communities and help galvanize us towards the polls this upcoming November.”

Biden would be the first Democratic nominee to address the group, which has active chapters in the swing states of Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He was criticized for skipping last year’s Islamic conference, and Emgage would go on to endorse Sanders for president. It backed Biden only after Sanders ended his campaign three months ago, saying it could “envision our voices being represented through his presidency.”

“Muslims have been demonized and terrorized by Trump, so I can’t imagine too many voting for him,” said Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir, the first Muslim to hold that role for a presidential candidate. “But to win their votes, you do need to put in effort. Biden is smart to actively appeal to this constituency, as they could be difference makers in battleground states.” There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims eligible to vote in Emgage’s targeted swing states, as well as California, Illinois and Virginia.

While Emgage was founded before the 2008 election — it was initially called Emerge, a name later taken by a group that trains female Democratic candidates — it has only recently held large conferences. Hillary Clinton did not appear at any Emgage evens in 2016, and Barack Obama was often cautious about outreach to Muslim voters, as conspiracy theories about his own faith swirled through the electorate.

Biden has dealt more confidently with Muslim voters, condemning Trump USAID official Mark Kevin Lloyd as “Islamophobic” after some of his anti-Islam online messages were uncovered and pledging to end the Trump administration’s ban on travel to the United States from some majority-Muslim countries “on day one.”

“Joe Biden is proud to stand with Emgage during one of the most challenging moments for Muslim Americans in recent history under Donald Trump’s presidency,” said Farooq Mitha, Biden’s senior adviser on Muslim American engagement. “Now is the time for us to come together to fight for our Constitution, civil rights, a just immigration system, and a better future for all of us.”

Since securing the nomination in April, Biden has made moves toward activists who were skeptical of him during the primary. While the youth-driven, climate-focused Sunrise Movement endorsed Sanders and protested Biden, the former vice president brought the group’s co-founder, Varshini Prakash, onto his campaign’s climate working group. Biden opted not to do an interview with Ady Barkan, a Medicare-for-all activist with ALS, during the primary. He gave Barkan an interview this month, and got the activist’s endorsement.

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