When Imam Nazim Mangera arrived at Chicago’s Muslim Community Center in December, he immediately encountered a feeling of deja vu.
In his last months as leader of a Vancouver mosque, Mangera had helped mobilize Canadian Muslims to cast their vote in a heated race for prime minister — a contest between a liberal candidate who went out of his way to show respect for Muslims’ religious rights and a conservative incumbent who had pushed to ban from Canadian citizenship ceremonies the face veil worn by some Muslim women.
Mangera arrived on Chicago’s Northwest Side shortly after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed that the government bar some foreign Muslims from entering the country, monitor mosques and kill the loved ones of radical Islamic terrorists.
In the U.S. on a visa from Canada and unable to vote, Mangera has done the only thing he can do to make sure Muslim voices are heard: preach.
“Every vote counts,” said Mangera, who occasionally incorporates “get out the vote” messages into his Friday sermons. “When we take part in the political process, politicians, even if they don’t benefit us, at least at a minimum, won’t harm us.”
For decades, Muslim leaders have urged the faithful to go to the polls on Election Day to perform their American civic duty. But a surge of anti-Islam rhetoric in this year’s election cycle has fueled additional efforts by area mosques to boost voter turnout. In addition to community leaders setting up voter registration tables in lobbies and booking buses to take people to the polls, imams in their weekly sermons are urging congregants to cast their ballots. Though they don’t tell the faithful how to vote, many say the choice is clear.
“They see the danger is in front of their own houses,” Mangera said. “It’s unfortunate that we have these negative aspects in life to encourage people (to vote).”