Black Muslims will play a big role in the next election. Join us.

Black Muslims helped elect Joe Biden president and are gearing up for 2024.

Hundreds of people wait in line for early voting in Marietta, Ga., on Oct. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

(RNS) — In the 2020 presidential election, President Joe Biden won the swing state of Pennsylvania by a margin of 80,555 votes, only barely outdoing Donald Trump’s hair’s breadth 2016 Pennsylvania victory with fewer than 45,000 votes. My city of Philadelphia has long been recognized as crucial to landing Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, but within that truth, there is a story about faith and political power that needs to be remembered as we head into the 2024 presidential cycle.

Philadelphia and Pennsylvania have some of the highest per capita Muslim populations on the East Coast, most of them avid voters. Pennsylvania has 168,000 registered Muslim voters. Philadelphia alone has 50,223 registered Black Muslims. These numbers are vastly undercounted due to issues with the way Muslims are tracked demographically, but even with faulty counting, it’s clear that Muslims in Pennsylvania, with a voter turnout of about 75% in both 2016 and 2020, have the power to swing elections. It’s also clear that, given their tendency to vote for Democrats, Black Muslims had a key role in electing Biden president.

Nationally, Black Muslims make up more than a quarter of the very diverse Muslim American community. They are an extremely influential voting bloc that in recent years has begun organizing itself in swing states across the country. There are networks of Black Muslim institutions, leaders, religious figures and organizations that may be tapped into to accomplish political and social goals.

The reasons are many for Black Muslims’ engagement in political life. We have been in America for a very long time: Black Muslims were among the first to arrive in the country due to the transatlantic slave trade. Since that painful beginning, we have persevered against impossible odds to become prominent in business, politics, education and beyond. Our power is hard-won, and it has made us major stakeholders in the future of this country. This was possible due to our community’s steadfast commitment to civic engagement, political advocacy and mobilization over hundreds of years.

Pennsylvania is a testimony to the power of Black Muslim engagement. The state has elected Black Muslims to nearly every level of state government: state Sen. Sharif Street (who is also chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party); state Rep. Jason Dawkins; Philadelphia City Commissioner Omar Sabir; Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.; Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal; and Judge Nusrat Rashid, to name just a few. 

Emgage Michigan workers organize before knocking on doors in Detroit suburbs before August 2022 primaries. Photo courtesy of Emgage

Emgage Michigan workers organize before knocking on doors in Detroit suburbs before August 2022 primaries. Photo courtesy of Emgage

As a community, Black Muslims unfortunately still face a myriad of difficulties, some of them unique to our community — the combination of anti-Black Islamophobia, religious discrimination and police brutality, underrepresentation in demographic data and voter files, and more. But these struggles are also uniquely motivating. We are a determined, passionate community, and our passion drives us forward. Tapping into this power and resolve benefits the greater Muslim community, but it can also benefit national political organizations.

Yet historically, Black Muslims have been overlooked in voter mobilization efforts. In the upcoming months, I will be leading a Get Out the Vote Tour on behalf of my organization, Emgage. We will travel to galvanize voters in states with large Black Muslim populations, such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. This historic initiative is a great opportunity to not only affirm the power of our voting bloc and empower the next generation of voters, but also so that the wider American public can see the Black Muslim community in action, to become inspired and to partner with us to raise our voices.

It is no secret that the Muslim community as a whole has faced incredible difficulties in recent years — from post-9/11 harassment, discrimination and violence to former President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and more. The Muslim community needs to come together to build a more just future where such difficulties are a thing of the past. It is impossible to accomplish these goals without the Black Muslim community playing a part. It is time for the greater public to listen to the needs of our community and to recognize the Black Muslim community’s current and growing power.

Salima Suswell. Photo courtesy of Emgage

Salima Suswell. Photo courtesy of Emgage

I urge my fellow Muslim Americans — and other political mobilizers — to join us and get more engaged. It is through increased cooperation that we may more effectively advocate for our rights and our needs. 

(Salima Suswell is national senior adviser and Pennsylvania executive director for Emgage. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.) 

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