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Despite Our Political Divisions, There’s Lots to Be Thankful for on Thanksgiving

By Nihad Awad

[Nihad Awad is national executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. He may be contacted at: nawad@cair.com]

This Thanksgiving, despite increasing divisions along political, racial and social lines, we have much to be thankful for.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we should also celebrate the record-breaking civic engagement witnessed nationwide in the midterm elections.

Just two weeks ago, the American people made history by electing many firsts.

Rashida Tlaib, a first-generation Palestinian Muslim from Michigan, and Ilhan Omar, a hijab-wearing Somali refugee, were elected along with many other trailblazers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman in Congress, and Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, the first Native American women elected to Congress. 

According to a new report published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 95 percent of the 1,027 Muslims that responded to a CAIR survey said they voted in the 2018 midterm election.

In addition to the increased civic participation of Muslim voters, we saw an exponential increase in grassroots mobilization by Muslim candidates as a direct response to the racism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric spewed by President Trump and his administration.

CAIR’s recent report, “Rise of the Changemakers,” highlights that “most American Muslim candidates reported that Trump-era Islamophobia motivated them to enter formal politics.” 

But Muslim Americans were not the only ones to mobilize effectively. In fact, voter turnout this year was at its highest level in a century for a midterm election. According to Pew Research Center, more than a quarter (27 percent) of Hispanics and 18 percent of African-Americans who voted this year said they were voting in a midterm election for the first time. 

There was also a notable effort among the younger voting population to cast a ballot this year. The young-adult turnout in early voting surged by 188 percent this year as compared to 2014. 

A wave of political empowerment in a nation that has been subjected to overt bigotry by its leader is certainly something to celebrate this holiday season.

While setting the Thanksgiving table, remember that Americans with a sense of civic duty have begun a much-needed movement that will only gain momentum going forward.

And while we are celebrating Thanksgiving, let us all remember those less fortunate or alone on the holiday and invite them to the table.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “He who has enough food for two, let him invite a third, and he who has food for four, let him invite a fifth or a sixth.” He also said: “He whose food exceeds his needs, let him share it with those who do not have food.” (Fiqh-us-Sunnah)

In the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, God states: “What will explain to you the path that is steep? It is the freeing of a (slave) from bondage, or the giving of food in a day of famine to an orphan relative or to a needy (stranger) in distress, and to be of those who believe, enjoin patience (in adversity) and encourage deeds of kindness and compassion.” (90:12-17)

 

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