Reflections- Zeba Iqbal: #Muslimvote and Leveraging Future Muslim Political Empowerment

zeba iqbalHelping President Obama was important to me in both elections at a personal level, I also wanted to work with my fellow American Muslims. Not to tell them what to believe, or who to support, but to help American Muslims understand the critical role we all play in the political process.

To me, political empowerment is a positive endeavor and an investment in the future of our community in this country. It is a long road that starts with informed voters who over time become volunteers and donors. Moving forward on this road requires self-determination, a commitment to our political process, collaboration, coordination and a lot of strategy.

This election season, I spearheaded the online #MuslimVOTE article series and campaign (September 21, 2012 through to Election Day) with Illume, Altmuslim and Altmuslimah. I wanted to encourage them to vote, to get out the Muslim voice on election-focused topics, and to create an online space for coordination and sharing of information on political organizing efforts by American Muslims across the country.

Leveraging social media was important because social media is an influential space with broad and deep reach. It is also an easy and inexpensive way to collaborate and share information. #MuslimVOTE was very successful with approximately 30 articles written for the series, and almost 400 participants on Facebook.

Online efforts need to be complemented by ground efforts and vice versa, There were some amazing local ground efforts this year. To start with GOTV efforts by Muslims in the battleground state of Virginia encouraged voter turnout electing Tim Kaine to the US Senate, and helping to keep Virginia blue for President Obama. A second example is the election day  GOTV efforts of the Arab American Association of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. And finally, Emerge and United Voices for America in the hard fought race for a US Congressional seat in Florida. Both organizations worked tirelessly to help Patrick Murphy defeat Islamophobe Allen West in a very close race.

Demographics played a huge role in this election and will continue to in future elections. The demographics favor us and so strengthened and amplified planning around efforts like the ones mentioned above both online and on the ground will benefit the community in 2014, 2016 and beyond.

Read other perspectives here.

This election cycle Zeba Iqbal spearheaded the campaign #MuslimVOTE: Election 2012-American Muslims VOTE! She was also part of the ad hoc group Muslims for Obama. Zeba was the Executive Director of the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals (CAMP) in 2010 and 2011; and a 2009-10 Fellow of USC’s American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. She lives in New York City, and works at Princeton University.

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