After experiencing years of rampant Islamophobia growing up in the aftermath of 9/11, young Muslim voters want to make sure their voices are heard.
By Zoha Zafar
Supporters of a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program protest in front of New York City Police Department headquarters in June 2013. (Richard Drew / AP)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is published as part of StudentNation’s “Vision 2020: Election Stories From the Next Generation,” reports from young journalists that center the concerns of diverse young voters. In this project, working with Dr. Sherri Williams, we recruited young journalists from different backgrounds to develop story ideas and reporting about their peers’ concerns ahead of the most important election of our lives. We’ll continue publishing two stories each week over the course of September.
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Zarifa Ali is voting for the first time in the 2020 election. As a first-time voter, 18-year-old Ali has paid close attention to the race, noticing how the Muslim-American population became a part of the political discussion. But she believes that Muslim voters are often taken for granted.
“We are not seen as an important demographic, and when we are seen it is only for a brief time during the election. After this, we are overlooked,” Ali said. “Mostly Republican candidates go against Muslim communities and appeal to those that see Muslims as a threat.”
Other young Muslim voters have noticed these patterns, too: Either they are pandered to without achieving any real, material changes, or they are weaponized. And their dissatisfaction with this dynamic shows up in the data: Of the Muslim youth eligible to vote, only 63 percent were registered to compared to 85 percent of their peers in the general population, according to a 2019 Institute of Social Policy and Understanding poll.