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CC ISSUE: MAR 2012 Last updated: Mar 7, 2012


Muslim Empowerment Starts March 20

Reema Ahmad

I can make your political dreams come true.

Yes, you read me right. I have the secret, the one that guarantees you will be taken seriously by any elected official of note, ensures the issues you care about are addressed, and facilitates respect within the political system as a whole.

No sham-wow necessary here, but there is something else: I will need about 30 minutes of your time one, sometimes two times a year.

The secret to success is simple: you need to vote and you need to do it at every opportunity possible. Not simply casting a ballot for the U.S. president every 4 years, no.  I mean every election: municipal, countywide, presidential, and yes, any and all PRIMARIES.

Tuesday, March 20th is Presidential Primary Election Day, when Illinoisans will have the opportunity to identify with a party — Republican, Democrat, Green, or Nonpartisan — and vote for the candidates to represent those particular states in the General Election this November 6, 2012. Also up for election are a variety of referendum, depending on municipality.

One thing the Muslim American community thoroughly lacks for all it’s budding political prowess is a savvy sense of vision — long term vision that is.
The commendable efforts of this community during every election cycle should be noted: many of us are indeed registered to vote, we are informed when different elections take place, and, in some exciting cases, we have candidates of our own.

But this is not nearly enough.
 
Before I go any further, there are two other secrets anyone trying to make a political imprint needs to know: your elected officials can see your voting record and the most important thing they care about is re-election. Though these two facts may seem unrelated, they go hand in hand when it comes to how your elected official treats you and the issues you care about.

Every time you vote (or don’t) a record is made of your political history. No worries, no one can see who you have voted for, but that is also not the point. When elected officials see a voter that asserts their voice at every opportunity possible by voting during every election, they see a constituent that is paying attention. They see either a supporter that will keep them in office, or a potential threat to their position in government.

And this is where the secret to your political dreams comes full circle. The more you vote, the more credibility you will have with your elected officials, and the more seriously they will take your issues when brought up to them. If you as a voter have shown yourself reliable enough to come out every election, you are a force that can also hold an official accountable if they are not meeting the standards by which they were put into office. Multiply this by hundreds or thousands, and you can sway an election.

It is not my intention to oversimplify the political process when - yes - money, status, corporations, and other factors do indeed have a say. But at the end of the day, people are the ones that vote and, together, that can send a powerful message.

Now more than ever, Muslim Americans must develop a solid habit of political engagement. On the right, GOP candidates regularly call for “special treatment” of Muslims in the United States, while the current administration has signed into law arguably the most crippling legislation to the civil rights of all Americans since the USA PATRIOT Act, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

This Presidential Primary Election Day, make sure you voice your opinions, whatever they are. Start your political activism here, and your dreams are well on their way to coming true.






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