Muslims on Capitol Hill learn how to lobby

Al-Sharif Nassef, far right, a participant in the third annual Muslim Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, takes an elevator to an appointment on May 2, 2017. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

WASHINGTON (RNS) In the community room of  St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the nerve center of a two-day Muslim lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill, both first-time and veteran lobbyists compared notes:

  • More than three times as many people — 400-plus — showed up to lobby at this year’s annual Muslim Advocacy Day (Monday and Tuesday, May 1-2), compared with the first time the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations held the event in 2015.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, still seemed to be avoiding them.
  • Even the staffers working for Congress members with anti-Muslim reputations appeared friendly.

“Muslims are in catching-up mode,” said Zahid Bukhari, of the Islamic Circle of North America, one of the groups that founded the coalition that organized the lobbying days.

While other ethnic and religious minority groups have been pressing their agendas with Congress for generations, Muslim Americans are just starting to flex their growing political muscles, he said.

report from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that Muslims were the faith group least likely to vote or be registered to vote in 2016. But Muslim voter registration is increasing, and pollsters say it won’t be too long before their clout can be measured in the polls.

In the meantime, Muslims say they need to assert themselves politically outside the voting booth. In the past year they saw President Trump and like-minded politicians rail against Islamic terrorists in a way that made them fear that they too had been indicted.

Hate crimes against Muslim Americans have spiked, Muslim Americans have seen at least 35 attacks on mosques in the first quarter of 2017, and Muslim families are four times more likely than the general public to report school bullying against their children, according to the ISPU.


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