American Muslims GainInfluence through Local Government

One of MPAC’s organizational goals is to encourage American Muslims to become involved in American politics. Through civic engagement, American Muslims can amplify their voices and ensure that their communities are represented. 
Running for local office — an example of civic engagement — is a challenging but rewarding experience. Engaging local government can be easier than working with the White House or federal agencies or Congress, and it provides access for communities to both state and federal levels of government. This week, MPAC spoke with three Muslim candidates who are running for office and asked them about their experiences on the campaign trail.

Naz Hamid Sees Many Opportunities for Muslims to Engage
Irvine resident and businesswoman Naz Hamid is running for an at-large seat on the Irvine Unified School District school board.
Dedicated to public service, Hamid served as a Girl Scouts Troop Leader and a Coordinator of the Assisteens of Irvine. As a school board member, she plans to prioritize the needs and interests of students. For example, Hamid wants the school district to increase the amount of technology used in the classroom.
“Students can benefit from a unique learning experience by using technology to connect with experts and educators across the country,” Hamid explained. 
In addition, she encouraged Muslims interested in running for office to:

  • Join a candidate’s campaign to learn about campaign operations;
  • Seek out resources like candidate training offered from different organizations;
  • Propose solutions that will address and solve issues in your community; and
  • Understand how much funding is needed to run your specific campaign.

 

John Koch Goes Door-to-Door to Speak With Voters
John Koch — a salesman of Sioux Falls — is a candidate for South Dakota Senate District 9. Always having an interest in politics, Koch is not someone that sits on the sideline. When he moved to Sioux Falls more than 20 years ago, he helped in the development of mosques and Muslim community centers. 
Government mismanagement and statewide concerns motivated Koch to set his campaign in motion. If elected, Koch will focus on expanding Medicaid, defending LGBT rights, and protecting the minimum wage. 
Koch’s experiences on the campaign trail have been generally positive. He feels that most South Dakotans who he has engaged with are more than happy to discuss the election with him. Koch enjoys knocking on doors to speak with voters. Furthermore, he stressed that American Muslims need to be visible and show that we have a lot to offer to the American public sphere -- whether it be volunteer work or public office. 

Farrah N. Khan Uses Community Experience to Run for Office
Ready to lead in the public sector after living in Irvine, California for 11 years, Farrah N. Khan is running for Irvine City Council. As a community leader, Khan draws her experience from her work in the Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council, PTA, and Irvine Rotary Club. 
The US Census ranked Irvine eighth in the country for growth and first in California. Khan envisions an Irvine that responds to this growth by investing in infrastructure and schools. She understands that a council member must be proactive to better the city. 
Khan expressed the fun she has on the campaign trail. She loves the experience of going door to door and becoming familiar with new people in different neighborhoods. 
Khan stressed that running for office is not the only way for American Muslims to enter the public sphere. There are many different committees and commissions of city government that focus on subjects like community services and the elderly. She is excited to see other American Muslims run for office and recognizes the need for our community to become civically engaged. 
Given the current political environment, Muslim visibility in American political life has never been more crucial. Running for office is an option, however, it can be very challenging. There are many ways for American Muslims to become active members of the political arena, which will in turn, propel our voices. 
With less than two weeks left until Election Day, it is important for us to learn more about local elections and measures and research American Muslims that are running for office.
[Contact: Ryan Ahari, Research and Policy Fellow, Muslim Public Affairs Council, (323) 258-6722 , ryan@mpac.org ]

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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