Clinton’s Careful Courtship of Muslim Voters

Source: The Atlantic

By DAVID A. GRAHAM

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—This Democratic headquarters one warm October night could have been practically anywhere in the country. Volunteers crammed into a dingy, decrepit office suite, complete with fake wood paneling from the era when Hillary Clinton still wore bell-bottoms, filling up every space—crouched over rickety tables or into corners, reciting a script as they called worked through long lists of voters, checking to see if people were supporting Hillary Clinton and whether they’d be willing to volunteer.

The only clue that this was an unusual event was sartorial: Several women wore headscarves, and a man sported a stylish kaffiyeh. The phone bank is one of dozens of Muslims for Hillary events that the Clinton campaign has arranged this year, part of what the campaign contends is an unprecedented effort to court a small but growing population.

On Friday, the Clinton campaign released an ad featuring Khizr Khan, the father of U.S. soldier Humayun Khan, who was slain fighting in Iraq. The ad, set to air in seven battleground states, is notable for its direct invocation of Islam. Telling the story of his son’s death saving comrades, Khan says, “He was 27 years old, and he was a Muslim American. I want to ask Mr. Trump, would my son have a place in your America?”

Such an ad would have been unthinkable as recently as four years ago, as Barack Obama grappled with false rumors that he was a secret Muslim. It’s surprising even now, amid a national campaign that has seen direct demonization of Muslims. But Donald Trump’s decision to demonize Islam has created what the Clinton team sees as an opening, leading the Democrat to court Muslim votes more boldly and methodically than any predecessor.

There are an estimated 3.3 million Muslims in the United States—a tiny portion of the overall population, especially excluding non-citizens and people too young to vote. But their numbers are expected to grow quickly, and moreover, American Muslims make up a noticeable chunk of the electorate in several swing states, including Michigan, Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. (The Muslim vote in Florida for George W. Bush, which was greater than his margin of victory, is sometimes credited with making Bush president in 2000.)

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