Last week’s election of the United States’ first Muslim congressman is a sign of the religious group’s newfound political activism, leaders of Northwestern’s Islamic community said.

During the Nov. 7 elections, Democrat Keith Ellison became the first American Muslim to win national office when he beat Republican Alan Fine in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. While Ellison kept talk of religion to a minimum during his campaign, his victory came in part with support from national Muslim groups that have shown a growing interest in electoral politics.

“The mentality has changed a lot,” said Amir Siddiqui, a Weinberg senior and president of the Muslim Cultural Student Association. “When my grandfather came from Pakistan, he saw Muslims being discriminated against and saw elections as getting into more trouble.

“Now, the attitude is that even though there is discrimination in America, Muslims need to be more active politically.”

Ellison beat Fine by more than a two-to-one margin, as the Republican split votes with an independent candidate. Ellis received endorsements from diverse groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Jewish World.

But Ellison’s Muslim support base was audible at his acceptance rally.

“Those of you who had to believe that we could all come together and stay together, all cultures, all colors, all faiths, all people: I want you to know this – God is good,” Ellison said, sparking some in the audience to cries of “Allahu Akbar.”

Siddiqui said Ellison’s victory comes at a time when American Muslims are just beginning to vote in large numbers.

“There are something like 8 million Muslims in this country and it used to be that barely any registered to vote,” Siddiqui said. “The number (registered) has gone way up and is still increasing.”

In October, the Council on American-Islamic Relations released the results of a poll of 1,000 Islamic voters that found the group leaned Democratic and was both younger and more educated than the average American voter. It said about 47 percent of Muslim voters are between the ages of 35 to 54 and 62 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.


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