Updated Edition: The Rise of American Muslim Changemakers: Political Organizing in the Trump Era

This report tells the story of the rise of the American Muslim political class during the Trump era and provides readers insight into the mechanics of running a campaign and organizing at the grassroots level.  As a collaboration between CAIR, Jetpac, and MPower Change, the report deepens the nationwide conversation about the American Muslim community’s involvement in the political sphere as it prepares for the 2020 election.

323 Muslim candidates ran 342 campaigns between 2016 and 2019. Some candidates ran for office during more than one election year, sometimes for a different position each time.

The updated report includes profiles of those that ran for office during 2018 and 2019 including newly-elected Pennsylvania State Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell, Virginia State Delegate Dr. Ibraheem Samirah, and Montgomery (New Jersey) Township Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, among many others recently elected in 2019.

The Rise of American Muslim Changemakers (PDF DOWNLOAD)
Updated Edition July 22, 2019


Executive Summary

This report provides qualitative and quantitative analysis of the rise of the American Muslim political class in the Trump era. It does so by profiling American Muslim candidates that ran for public office between 2016 and 2018 and offering insight from Muslim civic engagement organizations on effective methods of grassroots organizing.

It also provides results from CAIR and Jetpac polls and databases documenting American Muslim political engagement and attitudes in the current political moment. This report allows community organizers and political strategists to reflect and discuss the various tactics and approaches used by American Muslim candidates at the local, state, and national levels as they begin to prepare for the 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

Key Findings

More Mobilization, Less Persuasion

  • Campaigns that focused on providing political access for traditionally marginalized populations resulted in a significant rise in voter turnout.
  • This newly activated political base translated into direct political support in the form of votes, finance, or in-kind contributions.

Uphill Battle

  • Most political candidates were grassroots oriented, non-institutional, and often faced opposition from established political actors.
  • This lack of institutional support required intense and early ground level organizing.
  • Engaging and activating new political bases required more financial and human resources than expected.
  • Candidates consistently reported that mosque-based communities and traditional Muslim institutions did not play an early or significant role in mobilizing campaign resources.

Message Discipline, Narrative Control

  • Candidates that made organic use of social media, digital storytelling, and video production were able to mobilize voters at community and national levels in greater degrees than those who did not.
  • Candidates reported that a strong multi-platform social media presence with consistent message discipline helped control media narratives about candidates and mitigate potentially negative coverage.

Muslim, American, Human

  • Although most American Muslim candidates reported that Trump-era Islamophobia motivated them to enter formal politics, they stated that their faith motivated their agenda, but did not define or limit it.
  • Most candidates reported that their faith values guided their social justice orientation by prioritizing human welfare and social equity.

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