The Urgency of Civic Engagement
On the morning after the 2016 presidential elections, many Muslims felt dread and disbelief at the results. After running on a campaign riddled with anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric, Donald Trump’s victory presented a serious safety and security concern for Muslim Americans. Almost immediately, the Muslim Ban went into effect and it has since been followed by policies and ideas that further criminalize Muslims and other communities of color as well.
In the 2016 elections, polls found that Muslim Americans were the least likely group to vote or to even plan to vote. Data from just before the 2016 election showed that although 85% of Muslims planned to vote, only 60% of them were actually registered. This is compared to 94 percent of Protestants, 95 percent of Catholics, and 86 percent of Jews who reported being registered to vote at that time.
In addition to not being registered to vote, among the top reasons that Muslim Americans reported not voting were: “My vote doesn’t make a difference or won’t count,” and “I don’t like anyone who is running.” These arguments reflect a serious gap when it comes to understanding civic engagement and the role it should play in our community and our society as a whole. Civic engagement is about more than just voting; it is about being active members of society as individuals and collectively, in order to promote justice and dismantle oppressive structures. In the end, civic engagement means working to make a positive difference in one’s community. From an Islamic and prophetic perspective, there is a clear commandment to believers: And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful [ones].