Muslims’ Historic Presence at Democratic Convention

Denver – 8/27/08 –American Muslims participated in two events that were historic at this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) held in Denver, Colorado.

On Sunday, the DNC held its first “Interfaith Gathering” in which four community members played official roles in this opening event of the convention.  Imam Mohammad Mardini of Dearborn, Michigan gave one of the Abrahamic invocations, Fatema Biviji, who is also a National Democratic Delegate, read an English translation of selected verses from the Qur`an, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President of ISNA, delivered a speech based upon the theme “Our Sacred Responsibility to Our World”, and Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali of Denver recited one of the closing litanies. 

The interfaith program was attended by many leading figures within the party including DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-NC) and Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. (D-CO).

Perhaps the most rousing moment of the program was the speech of Sr. Helen Prejean where she spoke about “Our Sacred Responsibility to Our Nation.”  Her speech touched upon her struggle to end the death penalty in America due to its “racist” application stating that murders only get the death penalty “when white people are killed, people don’t get the death penalty when black people are killed.” 

Prejean stated that America has lost her “moral authority” in the world.  She cited the recent examples of  when the Bush administration calls for China to have broader human rights or calling for Russia to withdraw from Georgia when America tortures Muslims in Gitmo Bay and launched illegal incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq.

During the interfaith event, there were a few moments of tension when three anti-abortionists yelled that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) a “killer of babies” and a “child murderer” for his pro-choice stance.  Also, one audience member exclaimed “Free Palestine” during a portion of a speech by Rabbi Steven Foster when he stated that the Torah and Talmud teach that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. After the program, protestors continued their anti-abortion protests while evangelicals held signs reading “God Hates Obama” and “God Hates You.”

The following day, the American Muslim Democratic Caucus (AM-DC) held its first caucus luncheon.  Prior to the program, the AM-DC held a press conference discussing the formulation of the AM-DC and the need for the caucus being accelerated due to the marginalization of Muslims from the political process since 9/11. 

Several speakers addressed the 200 some attendees including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), State Rep. Yusuf Abdus-Salaam (D-AL) and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA).

Several Democratic Muslim delegates were also in attendance from several states ranging from California, Texas to Michigan.

The events of the first two days of the DNC holds promise as well as showing how far American Muslims have to go to become an organized political entity in the American political landscape.  Although Muslims were well represented in the official interfaith program, there was a lack of Muslim visibility regarding audience attendance.  The same holds true regarding Muslim presence as delegates on the convention floor.  The caucus meeting was good for a first year effort and will need to do more outreach from a broader spectrum to have more participation with varying perspectives for future events.  Despite these shortcomings, the “Interfaith Gathering” and the 1st AM-DC were overall successes and major steps towards political empowerment of the Muslim community on a broader scale.

Walid: Our major concern is the erosion of human and civil rights

From story titled “Muslim Outreach Proves A Tricky Issue For A Campaign Lauded As Multicultural” written by Sean Higgins on 8/25/08:

With polls showing a tight race with Sen. John McCain, Obama has reason to soothe Muslim concerns. The exact number of Muslim Americas often is disputed. A 2007 Pew survey put it at 2.35 million. There are substantial populations in swing states such as Michigan, Ohio and Virginia.

In 2000, George W. Bush is believed to have won a slight majority of the Muslim vote via aggressive outreach. Since 9/11, they have shifted and now identify about 2-1 Democratic. Many cite war on terror policies, claiming they have been unfairly singled out.

“Our major concern is the erosion of human and civil rights,” said Dawud Walid, a Michigan activist. He said he wants to see an Obama administration revisit the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping.

Walid, a former John Edwards fan, now supports Obama but rather tepidly: “I don’t think the Muslim community has any reason to doubt (Obama’s) commitment.”

Ellison and Carson, the only Muslims in Congress, tried to reassure the audience. They noted Obama endorsed and did ads for both of them in their recent campaigns.

Ellison also noted that “this is the first time ever that Muslim Americans have gathered together as a group at a Democratic convention.”

Yet he also had a word of caution.

“I’m a liberal Democrat and proud to be one but don’t forget that parties are vehicles,” he said. “The Muslim community cannot be captured by any one party.”

Many heads in the audience nodded along.

Historic Muslim Meeting at DNC

Rep. Keith Ellision at American Muslim Democratic Caucus Press Conference

Rep. Keith Ellision at American Muslim Democratic Caucus Press Conference










 The American Muslim Democratic Caucus today held its first caucus meeting at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which is being held in Denver, Colorado.

Speaking at the press conference prior to the caucus were Sarwat Husain of the Texas Muslim Democratic Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Andre’ Carson (D-IN).


More on Interfaith at DNC

Dr. Ingrid Mattson of ISNA giving speech at Interfaith Gathering at DNC 2008

Dr. Ingrid Mattson of ISNA giving speech at Interfaith Gathering at DNC 2008

American Muslims Take Place in Historic Event at DNC
Written by Dawud Walid
Denver – 8/25/08
American Muslims yesterday participated in the first “Interfaith Gathering” in the history of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).  The interfaith program, which was also the first official program of the conference, was attended by some 500 people including many important figures within the Democratic Party such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
Opening the service was Imam Mohammad Mardini of the American Muslim Center in Dearborn , Michigan .  Imam Mardini began his litany by praying, “All praises due to God the Lord of the universe, God who created us and created for us to live and enjoy and be righteous as well as strong.”  His opening prayer was then followed by invocations from representatives of the Jewish and Christian communities.
Other official participants of the program were Sr. Fatema Biviji from the Dawoodi Bohra community in Irving, Texas, who read from the Qur’an, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, who delivered a thought provoking speech based upon the theme of “Our Sacred Responsibility to Our World” and Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali of the Northeast Denver Islamic Center, who led the closing prayer.
The spirited program left all of the attendees in an exuberant as a kick off the rest of the conference despite three interruptions in the beginning when “pro-life” protesters yelled that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is a “murderer of babies” because he’s “pro-choice.”  Participants of the interfaith program were met outside by anti-abortion protesters.

Radical “pro-life” protesters disrupt interfaith program at DNC








The Democratic National Convention (DNC), today, held its first “Interfaith Gathering”, which turned out to be a very beautiful event.  I’ll have to write more about this in depth at a later time, G’d willing.

However, with all of the dignity of the interfaith program, which had Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim participants, three men at different poritions within the beginning of the interfaith program interrupted by yelling that Sen. Obama is a “murderer of babies” and a “child killer.”

Ironically or maybe not so, these radicals screamed in between The Spiritual Project choir singing Negro Spirituals about having faith in G’d and being freed from the burdens of oppressors.

I’ve always wondered how anti-abortion radicals can be so concerned about a morsel of congealed blood that has yet to form into a fetus, yet show no concern over the humans that are starving in the inner cities and rural areas or people who are dying of malaria because of lack of access to drugs.  I guess “those people deserve it.”  Or “if they just worked harder and stopped being lazy, they wouldn’t be hungry.”

Thank G’d there is a lot of armed security in Denver.  I suspect that these people and the pro-war protesters will be out in bigger numbers than they were today.