Bay Area effort to encourage American-Muslims to vote

The Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Chapter is encouraging American Muslims to register to vote before the November election.

Election training was held for a small group of volunteers at the CAIR offices in Santa Clara on Thursday. The volunteers plan to be voter engagement coordinators in the months leading up to the general election.

Government Relations Coordinator Sameena Usman with CAIR said a quarter of a million Muslims call the Bay Area home. She said their chapter registered more than 2,000 Muslims to vote during the primaries.

“This election is extremely important given that it is the presidential election and the stakes are high,” she said. “We’ve seen a number of people who have been encouraged to become citizens simply because they wanted to vote in this election.”

Zoha Raza recently turned 19. She will be voting for the first time in a presidential election and is excited about the opportunity to be a voter engagement coordinator for the American Muslim community.

“They believe our voice isn’t going to be heard or that everyone is against us and this is to show that we’re all together,” she said.

Shakeel Isaq said he wanted to volunteer to reach out to older generations.

“My grandparents came from Fiji and they just registered to vote after they became citizens a few months ago,” he said. “I want to reach out to the older community because I know they are the ones that are the most hesitant.”

Although CAIR said some candidates have expressed anti-Muslim sentiments, voter engagement coordinators must stay neutral. Volunteers will pass out brochures and flyers in hopes they will get as many Muslims as possible to fulfill their civic duty.

Zara said she will be starting at home.

“I actually recently got my mom to vote,” she said. “My dad still thinks it's all corrupt and politics is a sham… but hopefully I’ll bring him to the light.”

Volunteers will hit the streets Friday at various locations around the Bay Area. More election trainings are planned in the coming months.