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Muslim Americans ran for office in record numbers in 2020

At least 170 Muslim candidates were on ballots this election cycle, running in 28 states and Washington DC
Of the 170 Muslim American candidates that ran in 2020, at least 62 won their elections.
Of 170 Muslim-American candidates that ran in 2020, 62 won elections (AFP)

Muslim Americans ran for political office in record numbers this year, according to a report published on Wednesday by multiple organisations.

Taking a step up on the ladder of political mobilisation, 170 Muslim candidates were on the ballot this election cycle, running in 28 states and Washington DC.

"Increased political representation and higher civic engagement go hand in hand," said the report, put together by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Jetpac, and MPower Change.

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"The high level of voter registration and get out the vote efforts being organized by Muslim-led groups and elected officials in 2020 reflects this symbiotic relationship," it said.

Of the 170 candidates that ran, at least 62 won their elections, another record high since the organisations began tracking Muslims running for political office. In 2018, 57 candidates were elected to office.

The report, while preliminary, highlights an increasing number of Muslims running for office and winning despite representing only a sliver of the entire American population.

It also shows that instead of solely focusing on the presidential election, members of the faith group are running at the local level to help enact positive changes in their own communities.

The report said 23 Muslims won seats in their state legislatures, six won county positions, and at least 12 won seats on their local school boards.

"Muslim Americans are celebrating the election of members of our community across this country – from the school boards to the halls of Congress," Linda Sarsour, founder of MPower Change, said.

"No matter what happens on the presidential level, we will continue to build power, engage voters and focus on down-ballot races because that’s where the real impact on our lives [is]."

Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director, noted that many of the candidates were successful because they built "grassroots campaigns made up of diverse coalitions fighting for a just future in which every Muslim American's civil rights and freedoms can be upheld and protected."

"Now that the election is over, we all need to work to formulate public policies that promote freedom and justice."

Muslims vote in record numbers

Muslims also came out to vote in record-high numbers, with CAIR reporting last month that more than one million people cast their ballots this election.

And while the majority voted for President-elect Joe Biden, there was also a significant number of Muslims who cast their ballots for President Donald Trump - potentially signalling a partisan divide among Muslims.

Still, more research is needed to show the true level of support for Trump among Muslims, as the faith community is made up of a diverse array of groups.

Tensions among Muslims also ran relatively high in the run-up to the US presidential election after a number of major Muslim organisations cut ties with Emgage, a Muslim political advocacy group.

The issue at hand was over Emgage's endorsement of pro-Israel candidates, ties to the Muslim Leadership Institute - an Israeli-led initiative criticised by pro-Palestinian groups as a faith washing enterprise - and partnerships with the Anti-Defamation League.