Sun-Times: Muslim Americans rally to get out vote

Leaders hope to turn frustration into action this fall

The so-called Ground Zero mosque. The Florida pastor intent on torching Qurans. And the Disneyland hostess barred from wearing a hijab.

Kiran Ansari cites those issues and others as proof that “Islamophobia” is on the rise in the United States and underscores the need for Muslim Americans to get involved in the democratic process.

“Those things have a ripple effect on us here in Chicago,” said Ansari, 34, who will cast a ballot for the first time when she votes early this month for the Nov. 2 election.

“We want to translate these sad and very terrible things into empowerment and understanding,” Ansari said.

She was among dozens of Muslims who gathered Thursday afternoon at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview for a get-out-the-vote rally to encourage the Muslim community to cast ballots in the mid-term election. For months, leaders of the Muslim community have pushed for members to register to vote, get educated on the issues and candidates and turn out for early voting or at their polling places on Nov. 2. They dubbed the movement “Our Vote is Our Power” and hope to mobilize 20,000 Muslim voters to the polls.

The goal is simple: Turn frustration into action, especially on issues such as immigration reform and refugee rights.

“American Muslims are not a threat to this nation,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“The threat to this nation is those who would divide us based on race, faith or ethnicity because those are the ones who undermine our values.”

Chicago area Muslims say they are subjected to racial profiling and encounter roadblocks when seeking zoning permits to build or expand mosques and Islamic centers.

“We will respond by going to the polls on Election Day,” said Lawrence Benito, deputy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

On Thursday, the groups also affixed homemade signs declaring “Real heros vote!” and “We are America” to a bus that drove about 50 Muslim voters to the Oak Lawn Village Hall to participate in early voting.