With 105,000 registered voters, the Muslim community makes up 10 percent of New York City’s 4 million voters. But in this year’s mayoral election, many Muslim Americans are struggling to find a candidate who has sufficiently addressed their concerns.
“We want to feel like we’re part of the city, too,” said Razib Haq, co-owner of Jackson Heights Food Court and Bazaar. “We feel neglected, unlike other Americans.”
Among the community’s concerns is an addition of Muslim holidays to the public school calendar and, more importantly, the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods and mosques.
According to an investigation by the Associated Press last year, the NYPD never found terrorist activity in over six years of controversial spying on the community.
“I’ve heard about the surveillance inside the mosques and the labeling of any mosque as a terrorist organization,” said 22-year-old Hunter College graduate Mohammad Hossain. “It’s very unfair and unjust to just assume something like that. I know there’s a negative stereotype with Muslims around the world. But this is New York City – it’s like the melting pot.”
While 10 percent is not a huge chunk of the city’s total electorate, it makes sense for a mayoral candidate to court the Muslim community, which tends to vote Democrat.
“That’s a huge community so you would want to get those votes,” said Hossain.
Democratic candidate and city comptroller John Liu has persistently attempted to court the Muslim community by frequenting mosques earlier this spring.
Hossain said it’s important for New York City politicians to reach out to the Muslim community.
“As a whole, there are a lot of Muslim people in New York,” he said.
Sofana Rabb,23, a paralegal at immigration law firm Roman & Singh in Jackson Heights, said, “It would be nice for a mayoral candidate to reach out specifically to the Muslim community.”
Rabb, who supports Democratic candidate Christine Quinn on issues like job employment and health benefits said that she would like to see Quinn cater more to the Muslim community so it “can feel a sense of security.”
Other voters however think that the inability of the Muslim community find an acceptable candidate had led to indifference when it comes to politics.
“I can safely say that majority of the Muslims who are eligible to vote, probably don’t because of ignorance or they don’t care,” said Rabb’s brother and Bellrose, Queens resident, Sami Rabb,22. “A lot of Muslims come from immigrant backgrounds and from countries with political unrest.”
Rabb, who was president of the Muslim Student Association at St. John’s University’s last year, said that young Muslim American voters “distance themselves from the world of politics because of unrest and unfavorable conditions in their [parents’ native] country.”
“I’ll go to gatherings and a lot of kids my age will say, ‘I don’t like politics,’ “said Rabb. “The younger generation sees their parents talking about politics so they’re taught to believe that their say won’t have an impact.”
Still, many young Muslim American voters feel that New York politicians need to address Muslims’ Americans concerns about safety and religious freedom.
“We’re a huge community in New York City,” said Sofana Rabb. “We should be able to coexist.”