Muslim Democratic Club of New York

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Muslim Democratic Club of New York is a New York city-based organization of American Muslims dedicated to helping elect responsible Democrats to local office.

Founders

New York City’s first Muslim club is looking to have an impact on the mayor’s race. And organizers of the group, the Muslim Democratic Club of New York, cited current Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies–notably, the city police department’s controversial Muslim surveillance efforts–as a key motivating factor as they seek to ensure his successor follows a new path.

Founders

“The mayor has been a problem for this community,” one club leader, Ali Najmi, said. “We want to send a message to City Hall that the next mayor needs to treat us differently.”

But the club’s first ever meeting, held in a posh Midtown lounge March 2013, also focused on even more local political issues. Mr. Najmi, along with Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour and other organizers, led a PowerPoint presentation for the dozens of attendees about the untapped voting strength of Muslim Democrats in the city, keying on City Council districts in Brooklyn and Queens where Muslims live in significant numbers.

The ultimate goal of the club, which will begin fundraising soon, is to build a field operation powerful enough to influence elections throughout New York City. Influence for its own sake, though, is not the goal. In addition to the surveillance issue, MDCNY is currently pushing for the inclusion of Muslim holidays in the public school calendar. Foreign policy issues are not on the agenda.

“Those are the two main issues that we hear already on Twitter, on Facebook, from our community and the centers that we work for. As you know, many of us are in the grassroots community. Those are going to be our two big issues and the usual, health care, immigration,” Ms. Sarsour said.

Two Democratic mayoral candidates, Comptroller John Liu and Sal Albanese, addressed the club, as well as the city’s only Muslim elected official, Councilman Robert Jackson, also a Manhattan borough president candidate. Mr. Liu in particular has been a vociferous critic of the NYPD.

“I think more than any other community, the Muslim community has some very severe challenges and important issues the city has to deal with,” Mr. Liu said. “We have ongoing issues of surveillance of people just because of their religious faith- that’s not right, we should put an end to that. Kids and families have to choose between going to school and observing important holidays in the Muslim faith- that has to change also.”

Through a tally of Muslim-seeming surnames in voter rolls (religions are not counted in the Census), MDCNY determined that there are a total of 105,000 registered Muslim voters in New York City. 70 percent of that total, according to MDCNY, are Democrats and if 100 percent of Muslims voted, they would be 10 percent of the primary electorate. Mr. Najmi identified five City Council districts where the most Muslims lived. To the surprise of attendees, the district with the most Muslims was not Councilman Vincent Gentile’s Bay Ridge district or Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.’s Astoria district. It was Councilman Mark Weprin’s eastern Queens district, typically perceived as being white and suburban. Four out of the top five most Muslim districts are in Queens.

“We are swing voters,” the organizers emphasized, pointing out that 6,500 Muslim voters live in Mr. Weprin’s district. Mr. Weprin won his 2009 Democratic primary with less than 4,500 votes. The goal of the club, however, isn’t to depose incumbents. A long-term goal will be to train candidates of their own, but for now they will focus on raising money, hiring full-time staff, reaching out to ethnic media and trying to tap into the power of the Muslim electorate. The membership of the club will guide their turnout operations and Ms. Sarsour said they were going to target two council races this year, but club organizers did not specify which two.

“Even if we were 5 percent of the electorate, we could be a swing voter on the citywide level and guaranteed swing voters in specific districts in the City Council,” Ms. Sarsour said.[1]

Representatives for New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were also in attendance.

Robert Jackson of Harlem, the only Muslim member on the New York City Council, spoke to the crowd. So did Zead Ramadan, who is also Muslim and is one of the candidates running this year to replace Jackson.[2]

Board members

Muslim Democratic Club of New York April 1 2018:

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Congratulations to the newly elected 2018 Muslim Democratic Club of New York (MDCNY) Board Members!

MDCNY is the first city-wide Muslim American Democratic club in the country, dedicated to empowering the Muslim community though political activism. Join our movement. #MuslimDems #MuslimVOTE — with Murad Awawdeh, MK Mohammad Khan, Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Sadaf Mehdi, Mamadou Sire Bah, Aliya Latif, Ali Najmi, Faiza N. Ali and Zohran Kwame Mamdani.[3]

2016 work

In 2016 the Muslim Democratic Club of New York focused on Brooklyn, primarily in the 44th District (Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Kensington), where they endorsed Bobby Carroll, and the 46th District (Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights), where they endorsed Pamela Harris for the September 13th Primary. For these candidates, MDCNY will be phone banking and door knocking, specifically targeting Muslim neighborhoods, to try to get Muslims to come out and vote in the primary.

“We are trying to engage and integrate as many people (Muslims) into this democratic process as possible. That they not only come out and vote but they understand what they are voting for. So they understand what a City Councilman does, what a Mayor does, what a Public Advocate does,” said Murad Awawdeh.

MDCNY endorses issues that they feel are important to the Muslim community. For example, they recently endorsed the proposed Right to Know Act, which would require NYPD officers to hand out business cards when asked, and have cops seeking to conduct searches in the absence of a legal basis be trained to request consent by eliciting a yes-or-no response and walk away if it is declined.

“We did a lot of work to get Muslim holidays incorporated into the school calendar and make students get a day off. MDCNY is a very progressive organization. We support candidates who have a progressive vision. Making sure that Democrats are coming out and supporting our community not just asking for our votes but also making sure they support us when there are critical issues in our community,” said Awawdeh.

In the City Council Member Vinnie Gentile‘s 43 District seat (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights) where it is rumored an Arab-American might run for the position, Awawdeh said the club would support whoever they endorse, and their endorsements are not based on race or religion but qualifications.

“We want to make sure someone coming in understands the needs of our community and how to address the issues we have. That the candidate is not just someone who will say what we want to hear and then back out on our community once they are in office. There is a ton of anti-Muslim sentiment in Bay Ridge. There are hate crimes happening in the district. We accept people to come out and support us when we are being vilified,” said Awawdeh.

MDCNY endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Primary. They plan to endorse Hillary Clinton at their next meeting for the general election.

Awawdeh says MDCNY will do what it takes to get Clinton elected.

“Trump is anti-everything we stand for. He stands for everything this country is not about. He is the anti-American that we have not heard from in a very long time. And now he is giving people who were whispering various platforms, a bullhorn to scream it out,” said Awawdeh.[4]

Reception for Dr. Abdul El-Sayed

Muslim Democratic Club of New York August 22, 2017:

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NYC came out strong tonight at our reception for Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. Special s/o to our host committee for making this event a huge success! Together, we raised nearly $25K!! Abdul is a candidate we can believe in. Please consider donating here if you haven't already:

  1. ForourFuture — with Zead Ramadan, Haseeb Chowdhry, Abid Hossain, Muzna Ansari, Linda Sarsour, Aymen Abu Hamza, Ali Najmi, Faiza N. Ali, Aliya Latif, Noor Zafar, Noha El-Ghobashy and Saubirah Hk at New York.

Linda Sarsour

Muslim Democratic Club of New York March 28, 2015:

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Happy #spicy35 Birthday to MDCNY Board Member Linda Sarsour and thank you for serving as our President for back to back terms! Here's to 35 more years of consistent, strategic civic engagement in NYC Muslim communities. #MuslimDems — with Linda Sarsour, Aliya Latif, Saubirah Hk, Merium Malik, Anthony Jones Forstateassembly, Mohammed AbuJayyab, Murad Awawdeh and Faiza N. Ali.

Backing Cynthia Nixon

Muslim Democratic Club of New York August 13 2018.

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The Muslim Democratic Club of New York (MDCNY) sat down with NYS gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon today at a roundtable along with leaders of the NYC Muslim community. We look forward to supporting Cynthia Nixon for New York in the state primary next month! #MuslimDems #MuslimVote — with Faiza N. Ali, Aliya Latif, Sadaf Mehdi, Rama Issa-Ibrahim and Ali Najmi.

#MuslimVOTE movement

Muslim Democratic Club of New York September 7, 2014:

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Knock knock! Who's there? The #MuslimVOTE movement! #MuslimDems hit the streets today to help elect the first NYS Muslim Senator. Our team reminded residents in Southeast Queens to vote for experience, integrity and advocacy - to vote for Munir Avery on Primary Election Day, Tuesday 9/9! — with Debbie Almontaser, Farjana Khan, Saubirah Hk, Faiza N. Ali, Aliya Latif, Murad Awawdeh, Munir Avery, Ayisha Irfan, Linda Sarsour and Alexandra Owens.

Supporting Letitia James

Muslim Democratic Club of New York October 1, 2013:

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Today is the runoff election for public advocate! Are you ready to help elect a fighter for all New Yorkers? Vote for Letitia James and encourage your friends and family to do the same! Every vote counts! — with Nermeen Arastu, Zeba Iqbal, Linda Sarsour, Faiza N. Ali, Aliya Latif and Sussie Lozada.

References