I was enraged, but not shocked, when I learned the Joe Biden presidential campaign would not issue any apology to Linda Sarsour. The Biden campaign disavowed a DNC national delegate, a Palestinian woman who wore hijab and was elected by New York voters, at the first official DNC event for Muslims.
The DNC Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly was an official DNC event organized by the DNC Interfaith Council with other groups, including one that I had co-founded, Muslims Delegates and Allies Coalition, which represented the community at large. But in the end, the assembly was co-opted by Establishment Democrats from the Muslim community. I had to even correct reporters that this was a grassroots effort. In the final cut, I was relegated to a two-minute speaking role of the three-hour event with no say in the rest of the program besides my meager panel. They stole the name of our coalition and usurped our grassroots efforts. I never felt more stiffed in my life. That was until I learned about the comments against Linda Sarsour in the evening. By then I was steaming.
Earlier, I had been glad to learn that Farooq Mitha, the leader of Muslims for Biden and a University of Florida Levin College of Law graduate like myself, had been appointed to the Biden campaign. While I did not know Farooq, I figured he would be somewhat receptive if I reached out and wanted to help motivate my community to vote and provide guidance on environmental issues.
But once I tried to repeatedly reach out to Farooq, like many Muslim male leaders, he seemed to lack basic organizational abilities. He knew how to fundraise and disarm in white spaces. But he couldn’t respond to an email with a full sentence. I know why because we are beneath him and not worth his time. We, as women, cannot offer any meaningful organizational strategy. He, like other men in my community, is threatened by association with Muslim women who wear headscarves. The Islamophobia within our own communities is the worst.
If I had not written this piece, I would probably have a stroke from the anger.
From the campaign’s perspective, Farooq was excellent, because he didn’t actually do very much besides put out fires. His job is to keep us in check. Keep us in line. Keep us from doing anything. We are months behind other allied groups.
Can people trying to work on the campaign actually get plugged in anyway if they are not already his friends and family? I have to respond to emails from others across the country that he just doesn’t respond. I tell them, “It’s not you. He doesn’t respond to anyone.” Being non-responsive doesn’t work when your job is to organize and mobilize people.
I’ve actually wondered if all this was in fact deliberate, an unproductive Muslim mobilization operation meant to limit meaningful Muslim engagement. Muslim votes have historically been decisive whether we vote or not. And while so many Muslims are disengaged by the Biden campaign, there are scores like me who are willing to overlook it all, because the costs to our democracy are so high for another Trump administration. And yet we want to volunteer, but are turned off by the bureaucracy of it. The Muslim Establishment Democrats question our efforts and gaslight us.
We are not the first community group to come forward with these claims. The Miami Herald reported an internal letter that claimed Biden’s campaign is “suppressing the Hispanic vote” in Florida and lacks a “fully actionable field plan.” The same can be said of the Muslim community and progressive voters.
I cannot watch us lose another election and stand by doing nothing. I also cannot watch as Muslim women are discounted by our own Muslim brothers in leadership positions in the campaign. It pains me to recount all this, because it’s a type of trauma that is inflicted upon us to have our voices shut down.
Farooq Mitha is nothing more than a scrub from the Department of Defense looking to get ahead. All this is another male power grab for a punkah walla position in a Biden administration that may or may not happen. A punkah was a hand operated ceiling fan in colonial India, and the British preferred that the punkah walla be deaf, because he was in earshot of confidential conversations.
I’ve had to endure opportunistic men who want to uplift themselves at the expense of others. They make you grovel for a slot only to be told, “Sister, we ran out of time.”
We have to create our own organizations. We have to mobilize voters for the Biden campaign even when the campaign marginalizes us at every turn. We have to get out the vote, because we have watched the Establishment Democrats flounder time in and time out.
Gatekeepers mistakenly assume they can ride it out. But there is no guarantee the Democratic Establishment can bring it home.
In the words of Thomas Paine, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
But Dua Lipa says it best,
“Save it. Get gone. Shut up.”