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CC ISSUE: MAR 2012 Last updated: Mar 8, 2012

Voting to make a difference

Tariq Malhance

A generation or two ago, many of us came from our individual countries to America. Some came seeking jobs to help family members back home. Others saw the opportunity to start businesses. Still others wanted to earn a college education.

As time passed, we accomplished those goals (and many more) and decided to stay and raise our families here to provide them with these same opportunities. We continued with our daily lives, in many cases, often oblivious to this society and events around us. Assimilation often was not in our vocabulary due to cultural and religious considerations. Thus, our involvement and participation in social and political organizations was far below our potential.

Over time, and especially after the tragedy of 9/11, many of us have come to realize that this lack of civic engagement may have adversely affected our families and communities.

Without the political representation of individuals who understand our principals, convictions, and views, we have been at the mercy of misinformation, stereotypes, and misrepresentation. The only cure to remedy this situation is to take a more proactive role in the political process in local, state and national government. Since this is an election year, we will all have an opportunity to take part and “make a difference.” Whether we have never participated in the election process or are seasoned veteran voters, casting our vote and urging others to vote will be vital to our interests.

All our citizens who have not registered to vote should contact their county election office to complete the process. For those of us who are voters, we should exercise that right on March 20 (the primary) and on Nov. 6 (general election). In addition, it behooves us to research the views of the candidates who are running for office in order to vote for those who will be our best advocates. At the same time, we should encourage our families, especially our children, to become involved in the process by helping with voter registration and volunteering to work for the most appropriate candidates. This activity will provide the younger generation with a real-life civics lesson while also providing the impetus for them to seek public office at some point in their future.

As focal points in our community for both religious and social events, the mosques can play an important part in this process by encouraging and permitting volunteers to use the premises for voter registration drives. In addition, since religious organizations serve as not only a place of worship but also a meeting place for its members, they can be a conduit to contact our members who are eligible for citizenship but who have not applied.
Trained volunteers can provide information, assistance with forms, or other aid as needed to ease the path to citizenship. As our base of voters becomes larger, our voice will be louder, which will translate to a greater influence in the passage or rejection of legislation that is important to us.
Of course, civic engagement is not limited to activities associated with elections, lobbying, and public budgets. We can strengthen our society and enrich our civic lives by building partnerships with other communities, organizing public forums, and supporting local schools and parks.

While engaging in the political process is not a panacea, it certainly provides us with a baseline to begin to affect legislation that preserves the precepts this country was founded upon. Increasing our scope and presence will not only protect and enhance our families and communities now but will also provide guarantees that these rights and privileges will be preserved for our future generations. Our contribution to the economic, intellectual and social aspects of this country has been considerable. Let’s not squander the perseverance, hard work and especially our freedom by not exercising the rights which we have earned.


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