American Muslims discovering politics

CA-delegatesBy Jim Hinch, Orange County Register, 6/4/13

For many election cycles, the Arab American Caucus of the California Democratic Party gathered in small conference rooms at party conventions, listened to speeches, made a few endorsements, and went home.

This year, something different happened. "The room was packed," said Rashad Al-Dabbagh of Anaheim, who attended the state party convention in April as a member of the Arab caucus.

Seventy people crammed two rooms at the Sacramento Convention Center for the caucus' Saturday evening meeting on April 13, including a record 28 Muslims recently elected as state party delegates.

Women in hijabs were seen wandering the convention floor, often stopped by state party officials "asking, 'How can we help you?'" recalled Hussam Ayloush, one of the recently elected delegates.

So many people wanted to become leaders of the caucus that, for the first time in memory, the election for leadership positions was contested. ...

In California, home to roughly one million Muslims, the heart of that emergence is in Orange County. Nine of the 28 recently elected delegates to the state Democratic Party are from Orange County, where the Muslim population has been estimated at around 200,000. It's not known what percentage of California Muslims is registered to vote.

Orange County's prominence among Muslim political activists is largely due to the work of Hussam Ayloush, who heads the Anaheim office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Ayloush, who lives in Corona, said he had long been troubled by what he termed his community's political "apathy." So last year he embarked on an effort to recruit local Muslims to become Democratic Party delegates.

Delegates are elected biannually in each of the state's 80 Assembly districts. They help shape party policy by endorsing candidates and ballot measures and representing local interests at state conventions. (Read the full article)