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Fatima Salman, 43, an American social worker and Muslim from Detroit, Michigan, says she definitely votes for Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee challenging the re-election of US President Donald Trump.

I have three children and I worry about their future if Trump is re-elected, says Salman. It is a question of our own existence and the future of this country as a whole.

With early voting already well underway across the country, there is evidence in this election that Salmans’ vote and that of other American Muslims are well placed to be a big factor in deciding who wins the presidential election. November 3 in the United States.

There are about 3.45 million Muslims in the United States, only about 1% of the country’s total population, but their concentrations in the major swing and battlefield states, such as Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could make their vote particularly impactful.

Women wearing I Voted stickers after voting for the States primary inside a polling station in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, USA [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]The stakes are particularly high in Michigan, a state with 270,000 registered Muslim voters, says Mohamed Gula, organization director of Emgage, an American Muslim advocacy group. Hillary Clinton, in 2016, lost the state to Trump by less than a percentage point of just over 10,000 votes.

When it comes to the value of the Muslim vote, we could easily tip the elections, Gula says.

The main issues for American Muslims, Gula says, include health care, education, and criminal justice reform.

Obviously we’ll hear foreign policy issues centered, Gula says, but many of the issues we hear today, in terms of what really impacted the Muslim community, are some of the same issues. that also affect average Americans.

Strategy to win

Shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump, a Republican, issued an executive order barring nationals of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States by keeping an election promise and sending shockwaves through them. Muslim communities in the United States and abroad.

In the face of sustained legal challenges, the policy has gone through several iterations, but the Supreme Court upheld the third version, affecting the lives of thousands of Americans who have been barred from being joined by relatives, partners and friends.

Trump further alienated Muslims in a series of derogatory comments and tweets denouncing radical Islamic terrorism and labeling countries on the Muslim ban list as dangerous. More recently, Trump has not spoken out against white supremacist groups and instead told a right-wing group, the Proud Boys, which are active throughout Michigan: Stand back and stay away.

Pollsters say that in the 1990s, Muslim voters were almost evenly divided in their support for Republicans and Democrats. But this gap began to widen after September 11, and following the administration of George W. Bush, when the Republican Party was seen as more hostile to Islam.

Protesters gather outside the White House for a rally for a ban on Muslims against what they say are discriminatory policies that illegally target Muslim and immigrant American communities, in Washington, United States [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]Now, there are signs that the Biden campaign is looking to capitalize on this sentiment.

The Muslim vote is part of our strategy to win, said Farooq Mitha, senior advisor to the Biden Campaign for American Muslim Engagement, adding that Biden has released an agenda for American Muslim communities promising to lift the travel ban. Muslim on the first day of her administration. and fight against hate crimes committed against them.

Over the past seven months, we have hosted over 150 events in Muslim communities and understand that Muslims can play a central role in the more traditional battlefield states we know of like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin, but now we’re even seeing states like Georgia, Texas, Ohio, that could be on the line, Mitha says.

Courtney Parella, deputy national secretary for the Trump campaign, said the president intends to secure religious freedoms, economic prosperity and educational opportunities for Muslims in America and around the world, and has promoted peace by negotiating an agreement on the standardization of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. diplomatic relations with Israel.

President Trump understands that faith is part of what unites us as a nation, and he continues to be a strong advocate for religious freedoms for all Americans, Parella said in a written statement to Al Jazeera.

This president has a strong record of success for American Muslims and has done what others before him have failed to bring about peace among the Christian, Jewish and Muslim peoples of the Middle East.

Not a monolith

Nationally and in Michigan, Biden leads Trump in most polls. Polls also show that the overwhelming majority of Muslim voters support the Democratic Party. According to a recent survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and civil rights organization, 71% of Muslims say they will vote for Biden.

Joe Biden speaking at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit [AP Photo/Paul Sancya]But the Muslim community is not a monolith, says Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, physician and president of the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

American Muslims are a diverse group made up of waves of immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, some dating back to the early 1930s. And about a fifth of American Muslims are black Americans born in the country.

According to the CAIR survey, 18% of Muslims said they supported Donald Trump, and 11% were undecided or preferred not to answer.

Al-Hadidi explains that despite significant concerns about the rise in animosity towards Muslims under the Trump administration and the passage of the travel ban which has been very devastating and truly degrading to the Muslim community, there are also has a growing sense of disenchantment with the Democratic Party.

Although American Muslims, especially the younger generation, have broadly supported the protests that erupted this summer against racial inequality and police violence following the murder of George Floyd, the older generation, many of whom fled wars and the instability in their home countries, were very concerned about the violence they witnessed in the streets.

Safety, peace and avoiding chaos in cities are very important to many people, especially business leaders, al-Hadidi told Al Jazeera, adding that many Muslim business owners believe Biden was not doing enough to condemn vandalism against private companies. unlike Trump who promised to crack down on violent protesters.

Hundreds of people take part in a peace march on the MacArthur Bridge in Detroit, Michigan on June 5, 2020 to rally against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. [File: Rebecca Cook/Reuters]Detroit, a city with one of the largest concentrations of black Americans, has become the center of nighttime protests. While most have been peaceful, some have faced intense clashes with police and vandalism from downtown Detroit businesses.

As a result, a significant proportion of Muslims quietly support Trump, al-Hadidi said, but are afraid to speak out for fear of being attacked, called traitors, or having their property vandalized.

Vote Trump

Nada al-Hanooti, ​​executive director of the Emgages Michigan branch, said Muslims’ disenchantment with the Democratic Party collapsed after Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist around whom the community had gathered. rallied, abandoned the race in early April. The Vermont senator saw his initial strong lead evaporate after the party establishment aligned behind Biden.

It will take a long time to persuade our communities to vote for Biden, al-Hanooti said. They’re not just going to jump on the Democratic candidate’s train.

But for many Muslims, like their average American counterparts, who have been appalled by Trump’s handling of foreign relations, the racial justice protests and the coronavirus pandemic, voting Trump can be a motivation in itself.

Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib, who is also a Muslim, addresses a rally to protest racial inequalities in Detroit, Michigan, following the death of George Floyd in custody in Minneapolis. [File: Rebecca Cook/Reuters]A lot of people will reluctantly vote for Biden, but it’s definitely a vote to get Trump out, and not necessarily to get Biden in, al-Hanooti says.

Nationally, in a recent Pew Research Center survey, 63% of Biden supporters said their vote was more of a vote against Trump and not necessarily a vote for Biden.

Lama Samman Nasry, a resident of Franklin, a suburb of Detroit, and mother of four, said she was one of those reluctant voters and was unsure if she would vote in all of these elections.

She said Sanders was her first choice, but also believes Trump’s four more years will be devastating for the country.

We don’t feel so safe, racism is on the rise and Trump is feeding the racists, telling them to stay away, it’s scary for us, Samman Nasry said, adding that her husband and daughters all voted for Biden and the ‘had urged to do the same.

I’m not encouraged to vote for Biden, but I could change my mind and say you know what, let’s give it a try and see what it does, give it a chance.

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