IRUSA Wants you to Go Vote in Every Election
A Town Hall Discussion
By Christina Tobias-Nahi and Aseel Elborno
On October 30, 2022, Islamic Relief USA, in partnership with Poligon and MakeSpace, hosted a Midterms Get Out the Vote Town Hall as part of our Go Vote Advocacy Campaign (irusa.org/govote). The goal of the event was to create an inclusive, safe space for Muslim community members to address issues they care about and discuss their participation in this year’s election. We hoped to ensure that attendees are ready and have a plan to vote. The panel was moderated by Wardah Khalid, founder of Poligon Education Fund, a national civic education and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening American Muslim engagement with Congress. The panel speakers included IRUSA’s Director of Public Affairs, Christina Tobias-Nahi; Former Alexandria City Councilman Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein; Alexandria City School Board Member Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi; School Board Member At-Large in Fairfax County Abrar Omeish; and Founder of MakeSpace Imam Zia.
To set the general framework to address voter apathy and why the need to vote at all, Ms Tobias-Nahi spoke about the communities that have struggled for and even died for the right to vote – whether communities of color or women. She mentioned the Lucy Burns museum in Virginia, where women suffragettes protesting in front of the White House for enfranchisement in 1917 were arrested and endured what is now known as the ‘night of terror’: being tortured for their actions in that former prison.
As other speakers gave interventions, they moved from the act of voting itself to the role elected officials have in both making and in passing hopefully good legislation, whether at a local or federal level, and also how to run for public office. Because not everyone aspires to public office, it was also discussed how on an individual level, one can act to support those who are running by helping on campaigns, and most important, by mobilizing your friends and family to get out and vote. Imam Zia had an important reminder that it is not the aim of our groups to endorse particular candidates or parties, but rather to remind us of our Muslim imperative to be part of the process of creating better societies that represent all of us.
Audience questions were around how to know what candidates stand for and how to follow candidates on issues and the importance of voting your values. Panelists spoke about the tools people can use to see where their candidates stand on issues, such as candidate websites, online voter guides, and their social media presence. Panelists encourage the community to look at the scope of issues the candidate takes stands on, rather than a singular issue.
Overall, it was a very informative afternoon and we learned that the community still has many questions even about how the process of government works at both the local and federal level (ie the writing and introduction of bills and their impact on the spending of your tax dollars etc) so more educational events will be planned.
To learn more about how you can get involved with our advocacy campaigns, please visit irusa.org/advocay.