September 14, 2021
The Incredible, Electable Muslim Candidate

The Incredible, Electable Muslim Candidate

Since September 11th, 2001 Muslims have been expressing the fact that Muslim-Americans are an integral part of the American fabric.  We usually refer to historical figures, medical, and scientific contributions as evidence. The political sphere, however, is something that is usually avoided in conversation; this is why a Muslim candidate in every region is needed. Across America we have many Muslim Americans serving in political offices, people like Keith Ellison and Andre Carson are obvious picks as they serve in the US House of Representatives; however we also have people like Ako Abdul-Samad in Iowa, Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, and Jamilah Nasheed in Missouri all serving in their respective state congress. There are also many Muslim Americans active in local politics from city council to county commission and other community-driven positions.

Still, the anti-Muslim bigots are able to rattle their sabers and wave their banners claiming that Muslims don’t belong.  In spite of being over 14 million strong, the Muslim American population still doesn’t have a loud enough voice in public affairs.  This is why it is very important for Muslims to be involved in the political sphere.  A 2007 fatwa out of Mecca stated, in part, that Muslims should be involved in local elections in order to bring benefit to the Muslim community.

Muslim American asked former Charlotte city councilman Nasif Majeed about his motivation to run for office, “As a local business owner, I was already involved in the community and over time I started noticing problems not being addressed. I was displeased with the behavior of a local political figure and ran against him.” When asked how being Muslim guided him, he explained, “Religion guides us in addressing the needs of people and ensuring that people are served properly. On the city council, we made sure that people had safe communities and that services were provided in a fair manner.”

Aside from his own, Politics is a family tradition for Councilman Majeed whose grandfather, Calvin, ran for office in Raleigh, NC back in the 1920s. In pre-civil rights area south, of course Calvin Leightner was threatened with death for having the audacity to run for office against a white candidate; but he did it anyway saying, “Well, I guess you’re gonna have to kill me then because I’m running for this office!”  Later in the 1970s, Nasif’s uncle Clarence Leightner became mayor of Raleigh, NC after a career on city council.

“People are always judging you based on where you're from, where you went to school, how you look, how you talk. But at the end of the day, you're going to have to look into the mirror and accept who you are. It's all about being authentic.” – US Rep. Andre Carson, Muslim Candidate from Indiana  (photo by Michael Conroy, with AP)
“People are always judging you based on where you’re from, where you went to school, how you look, how you talk. But at the end of the day, you’re going to have to look into the mirror and accept who you are. It’s all about being authentic.” – US Rep. Andre Carson, Muslim Candidate from Indiana  (photo by Michael Conroy, with AP)

Nasif Majeed says that in 1987 when he originally ran for County Commission as a Muslim candidate that his religion came up in a big way “It actually split the city apart. There were Muslims telling that it was un-Islamic to run for public office and that was hard for me to understand because I felt it was un-Islamic NOT to be involved in governance.” Nasif continues “We made decisions in city affairs that directly affect the people, so once I was elected, even those who told me not to run were quick to ask for things to get accomplished that could benefit and serve them!”

“We broke the ice in a lot of ways back then,” Nasif recollects, “I remember when JFK ran for office as a Catholic and there was such a huge controversy and I experienced a lot of the same situations.” But things changed, since 95% of the constituency in Charlotte is Christian, Nasif Majeed relied on bridging the gap to make sure that everyone in the community was served well without regard to religion, ethnicity or class. “My contribution to the city didn’t have to do with my religious background, but rather to deliver services and solve problems as it relates to community growth and development” affirms Nasif.

We contacted Umar Lee who recently announced his campaign to run for mayor of St. Louis, MO as a Muslim candidate in 2017. He seemed to echo the same sentiment that Nasif stated “The city is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. We’ve got riots in the streets, we’re losing the Rams and we’ve got increasing debt on the city that exposes decades of mismanagement. St. Louis really couldn’t get any worse in the media’s eyes.” Umar has decided to run for mayor in order to directly expose and address the social issues that he sees not being properly addressed.  He cited a back-and-forth power struggle between two sides of the Democrat party as another problem “My initial idea is to run as a Republican because it’ll be easy to get the nomination since there are virtually no Republicans in the area.”  In the city of St. Louis there are over 100,000 Muslims, a majority of which are Bosnian and as a whole the ummah is respected “There’s not much Islamophobia in St. Louis,” says Umar, “Muslims have already been active in the area, we’ve had three [Muslims] elected to the state house where they have been responsible and have a good track record. This hasn’t happened anywhere else in the country.” As for any Islamophobes he meets on the campaign trail? “They’re not voting for me anyway, so I’ll spend my energy elsewhere.”

Keith Ellison was the first openly Muslim candidate to be elected to a federal position. Insha’Allah, he will not be the last.

How can a new Muslim Candidate get involved? Nasif Majeed encourages people to start with helping people, “Get involved in grassroots organizations and build a base of community work. Help people by serving on committees and boards that you can contribute to. That integration in the community is essential for people who wish to serve at a higher level. Being involved in these community organizations will provide a much greater education than college courses as it gives on the job training for serving in political office.”

Activism comes easy for Muslim Americans because it is the first reaction to oppression. However, in order to make a real change in society there must be pro-active steps. Keith Ellison once stated, “If you can make a movie, make one. If you can sing a song, sing it. If you can write a play, write it. If you want to run for office, run. But do something to make this world a better place.” Ultimately the goals of the Muslims in political office appear to be righteous, everyone has gotten involved to fix an injustice in society with their hands and speak out with their voices because they grew tired of only hating it in their hearts.  Getting involved in politics for these Muslims was the logical leap from merely having faith to putting faith in action.

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