The head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that Muslims could comprise the swing vote in the presidential elections if 1 million of them register to vote, as he urged them to turn mosques into polling stations this November.
“I believe we have at least 1 million Muslim eligible voters in this country. We have to register every single Muslim to vote in 2016. The Muslim vote can be the swing vote in major states,” CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said at the Muslim American Society (MAS) and Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) annual conference in Chicago, according to video posted earlier this month.
Awad listed the battleground states, asking the audience members if any of them live in those states.
“The swing votes, brothers and sisters, you know them: Florida, Ohio. Do we have people from Florida here? Do we have people from Virginia? Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania?” he asked.
“These are predicted to be the seven swing states in 2016 presidential elections. The number of Muslims in these states are growing,” he said.
The CAIR chief explained how his group planned to increase Muslim influence on the electoral process.
“We would like to have an accurate assessment of our voting power, of our inclination on issues. Based on that, we’re going to meet with presidential and local candidates on issues of concern to American Muslims, and we’re going to negotiate with them,” he said.
Awad explained that CAIR — which is prohibited from engaging in political activity due to its registration as a tax-exempt organization — would not be the vehicle by which a candidate would be endorsed. He said another organization would be set up to promote the Muslim-friendly presidential candidate.
Based on the outcome of negotiations with the candidates, Awad said “a decision will be made not by our national organizations,” because as a 501(c)3 it can’t endorse or raise funds for candidates, he said, adding, “Who will make that decision is a committee, like a political action committee, that is registered by law to conduct that.” The committee’s endorsement for president will then be “conveyed by social media to the Muslim community.”
Awad urged all Muslims to register to vote and to use Islamic centers as polling stations.
“Turn your centers, Islamic centers, mosques into registration centers for voters, into polling stations during the election time,” he said, adding, “What kind of America are we going to have depends on you.”
He urged them to respond to recent anti-Muslim statements by getting out the vote.
“If you don’t like what Donald Trump says, what Ben Carson said, get busy in 2016. Get busy in 2016. Register to vote and register other people to vote,” Awad said.
American Muslims can determine “not only the future of you here but the future of America itself,” he continued.