Why US Muslim voters will play an important role in the presidential election

Produced by: Sophie Alexander

The Adhan is the call to prayer that beckons Muslims to worship.

I’m sitting at the back of a mosque in Michigan, listening to the Arabic announcement echo around the ornately decorated hall. But today, this is not just a call to prayer - it’s also a call to mobilise voters.“It is a religious obligation to vote,” Imam Mohammed Baqer Qazwini tells the congregation during his sermon.“The hateful remarks, the encouragement of white supremacists - we need to say no to that,” he continues.

Michigan has 270,000 registered Muslim voters. In 2016 Donald Trump scraped a win here by just 11,000 votes. Credit: AP

Dearborn on the outskirts of Detroit in Michigan is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in America, and the biggest Arab Muslim population outside of the Middle East.As we drink coffee in Imam Qazwini’s office, he tells me about the past four years under a president who’s banned people from six Muslim-majority countries entering the US and who’s been widely accused of Islamophobia.“For me having to see Muslims live in this fear every single day, it gives me a lot of concern about the future.

"Can we as Muslim Americans live here without the daily threats?

"Without concern about raising a family here?

"It’s very troubling for a religious leader to see that happening to your community.

"It’s persecution.”

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It seems the Democrats acknowledge the potential significance of this section of the electorate.

Just last week, Kamala Harris made a surprise stop in Dearborn, picking up shawarma from one of the city’s renowned restaurants, while Jill Biden visited a Lebanese bakery in the city, telling residents that Arab-Americans would have a "seat at the table" under a Joe Biden presidency.But the voters I speak to in Dearborn don’t want just want to be wooed in the run-up to the election, they want whoever wins the White House to enact real change.

A recent report revealed Muslims in America report the highest rates of discrimination, with 44% reporting prejudice at airports and 33% in job applications. 

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris stops by the Khalaf Grill in Dearborn last month. Credit: AP

“Joe Biden is not the lesser of two evils,” Yasmeen Kadouh tells me.

“He is the competent person that we are going to put in the White House and then put pressure on every single day that he’s in office in order to get the change that our community needs.”

I meet Yasmeen and Rima Fadlallah on the front porch of Rima’s family home in Dearborn. They are two inspirational young women.

They have a podcast called Dearborn Girl on which they share the stories of Arab and Muslim women.Rima explains how her parents came to the US in search of the American Dream, but for her generation, expectations have shifted.

Yasmeen Kadouh and Rima Fadlallah. Credit: ITV News

“We are walking in line with the entitlement that the average American has: 'we deserve this'; 'no, you’re going to call me by my real name'; 'no, you’re going treat me this way'; 'I deserve to be here just as much as you do'.“I don’t ever reserve my hope for politicians, I reserve my hope for the people who can push the politicians, and in that sense, I definitely have a lot of hope.”These women are proud Arab-American Dearborn Michigan Muslims and they are reassuringly confident that they can make a change - whoever wins the White House.

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