'Out-vote the hate': Tlaib and Omar call for large Muslim turnout
Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar along with other prominent Muslim Americans have called for high voter turnout from their community to push back against bigotry and defeat President Donald Trump in next month's election.
Speaking at a virtual town hall meeting with Muslim officials and advocates hosted by Senator Bernie Sanders late on Tuesday, Tlaib said US Muslims will "out-work" Trump's "hate", recalling how protesters flooded airports across the country after the president announced his ban on several Muslim-majority countries in 2017.
"Not only did we go in masses to the airport, we're going to go in masses to the voting booth. And I'm calling on our Muslims across the country to know that we have to take up the man who birthed the Muslim ban," Tlaib said. "We have to make sure we out-vote the hate."
Omar, who has been a frequent target of racist attacks by Trump at campaign rallies, said civic engagement and community-building are an "antidote" to hate.
"No matter what happens, we are not giving up engagement and participation in our society," Omar said. "We are not going to recoil or retreat into spaces of comfort, because that will eventually create discomfort for ourselves... That is truly what it means to be an American; it's that you stay resilient, strong and you work through everything."
Both Omar and Tlaib had originally endorsed Sanders during the Democratic primaries before pledging their support for the eventual Democratic nominee Joe Biden and vowing to mobilise the Muslim community to defeat Trump.
'They don't want you to vote, and if they don't want you to vote, you better catch on that your vote is enormously important'
- Senator Bernie Sanders
While Muslims represent a small minority of voters across the United States, their communities are concentrated in key swing states, where their votes can affect the outcome of the race.
Sanders noted on Tuesday that Trump had won several states with a razor thin margin in 2016, proving that every vote counts.
"No excuses, you cannot sit this one out," Sanders said. "You've got to not only vote yourselves, you've got to get your friends, your family, your co-workers... We have got to have the largest voter turnout in history. We've got to defeat Trump, and we have got to defeat him badly."
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim to be elected to Congress in 2006, said bigotry is being used to perpetuate broader inequality by creating a "boogeyman" to distract people from establishing human solidarity and demanding their rights.
"If you want to have an unequal society for everyone, you'll need racism; you've got to have bigotry because if you don't have it, how are you going to distract the majority that is on the bottom to the point where they will voluntarily give up their rights," he said.
Asked about voter suppression, Tlaib denounced Republican-led measures to make voting more difficult and lauded the efforts of attorneys general like Ellison to make it more accessible.
But she also called on people to do all they can to vote and encourage others to join them.
"You all have to help us and be our partners and go out there and make sure this election is too big to rig," the congresswoman said.
Omar also urged Muslim Americans to be "assertive" about their right to vote. "If our vote wasn't as important as it is, they wouldn't fight so hard to limit our ability to vote," she said.
Sanders also accused Republicans of "working overtime" to prevent people from voting.
"They don't want you to vote, and if they don't want you to vote, you better catch on that your vote is enormously important," Sanders said. "They know it; now it's your turn to know it."
Abdul El-Sayed, a public health advocate and former gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, echoed that message.
"Talk to your ammos [uncles], to your khaltos [aunties] and your aunties and your uncles and their kids and their parents and all your cousins," El-Sayed said.
"You need to make sure that they understand exactly where and how to vote, make sure that they're registered; walk them through the process, ask them for their plan, and then hold them accountable to their plan."