How Bernie Sanders Can Help the American Muslim Community
American Muslims have been an essential part of the fabric of the United States for over 200 years. We were seen, until recently, in the same light as any other American. We went about our lives, we went to baseball games, and went to worship services just like many other Americans. We felt as American as apple pie.
When foreign terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, American Muslims came under new scrutiny. We were unjustly criticized and forced out of our typical American comfort zones into an arena of fear and hatred. Many Republican politicians capitalized on America’s new found fear of Muslims and created campaigns based on the denunciation and public vilification of the American Muslim community.
Following years of anti-Muslim rhetoric, the hatred began to subside. Many in the American Muslim community were afraid another attack would spawn new vilification, so decided to increase their involvement in politics. Some became precinct chairs and party officials, others ran for elected office and others worked to increased voter turnout.
I started my political career in 2004 as a Democratic precinct chair in Houston, and in 2012 I was elected to the Texas Democratic Party as vice chair for finance. Although I was the first American Muslim to hold this position, my faith never stopped me from receiving a huge amount of support and warmth.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump want to stop Muslim immigrants from entering the country. He has reignited the fears of the past, and has brought the hatred and bigotry toward my community to new extremes through his vicious and racist rhetoric.
The Democratic presidential candidates stand in stark contrast. No one has done more than U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to bring American Muslims to the forefront of the political debate in the best way possible. His defense of a disparaged population is genuine and has brought tears to the eyes of many American Muslims who have never had prominent political figures reach out to them.
More than that, though, Sanders has spent decades as a tireless advocate for social justice. From speaking out for fair wages and confronting the climate crisis to reigning in economic inequality and opposing senseless wars, he has spent his entire political career sticking to his values even when it wasn’t popular. When people hear his message, they want to vote for him because he’s authentic, honest and shares their values. Sanders’ campaign is bringing millions of first time voters into the political process and has the potential to fundamentally change the balance of power in our country.
Sanders long-standing commitment to justice make me certain that he is the candidate best able to stand against the rising tide of Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism unleashed by the likes of Trump. There is simply no doubt that as president, Sanders will stand for Equality before the law, a robust defense of civil liberties. Freedom of religion and opposition to racism are central to Sanders’ vision of social justice in America.
Sanders announced his candidacy in April. Since then, he has led a small, grassroots campaign which has toppled everyone’s expectations. It is truly a testament to his inclusive, bold vision. It’s a future we all can believe in. That’s why I’m voting for Sanders on Super Tuesday, March 1. Join me, and feel the Bern!
In 2012 Mr. Shamsi was appointed to the DNC Platform Committee. He was the first American Muslim and the first Asian American elected Vice Chair for Finance for the Texas Democratic Party, which is the third highest position in the State Party. He graduated from the University of Houston with an MBA in marketing and management. He is currently a CEO in the healthcare field and has served on various government panels and boards concentrating on substance abuse and mental health services.