It's the day before the election. Inside Minnesota's most popular Muslim-owned restaurant, dozens of diverse Muslims pop in for lunch to grab halal sandwiches and fries before heading back to work. Across the street, a long queue of early voters stand patiently in line as a coolish grey November mist falls around them as they wait. The line snakes down the block and around it, as Hennepin County’s early voting site continues to welcome voters at a steady pace over the lunch hour.
Walking down this street on this day, there is a nervous pulse of shared duty: we are welcome here together to do this thing we believe in. Together.
Today is Tuesday, November 8th, 2016. A very important day for American Muslims. To inspire even more Muslim women to cast their ballots, here at the Sisterhood, we’re sharing stories of Muslim Sheroes actively practicing democracy.
No? Go do it. Yes, we mean
(Not sure how? Scroll to the end of this article for answers.)
A Rich Immigrant History in Minneapolis
A group of hipsters in beanies check their smartphones impulsively while an elderly Caucasian couple gingerly move a folding chair as they inch forward in line. We are all here - people of color, youth voting for the first time, folks casting ballots at the end of their lives - and so many women. We see affluent professionals on lunch breaks standing behind working-class middle aged men. We imagine the latter are proud longtime Northeast residents - from families like the Polish, Finnish, Lebanese and Ukrainian immigrants who settled in Minneapolis to work in the grain mills and sawmills along the river in the early 20th century. We have a proud history of immigration here in Minnesota. In fact, by 1930, this very neighborhood’s population was made up of nearly sixty percent immigrant families.
Hijabis, Niqabis and other Muslim-identifying women now stand bravely and independently alongside these Minnesotan voters, eager to exercise our civic duties in turn. After all, the signs above our heads are written in English, Spanish and Arabic. Muslims have made our indelible mark in Minnesota, and along this Northeast street especially, we are proud to cast our ballots as agents of this community, not just as central topics for debate.
Getting Out the Muslim Vote
At the Sisterhood, 2016 has been a year for ‘pounding the pavement’ - getting out the female Muslim vote. We’ve met thousands of Muslim women, inspiring and brave sheroes, who have learned about politics, demystified the process, and have involved themselves in the democratic process. By some estimates more than 1 Million Muslims are now registered to vote across the nation in the 2016 election.
Today at Holy Land Deli, we talked with three inspiring and hopeful female Muslim voters from diverse backgrounds: a new American from Pakistan voting her conscience for the first time, a 4th generation African American Muslim woman, and a second generation Ethiopian-American Election Judge.
Read their stories in their own words. Get inspired, and vote today.
4th Generation, African American
I’m born and raised in the United States.
It was exciting. By the time I walked out, the line had started to grow. I felt a sense of pride and achievement. I was elated even talking to the gentleman next to me. I don’t even know who he was voting for but I felt so good. I hope that everyone is out there voting.
I’ve been voting since I can remember. It makes me proud to be a Muslimah, and to be a woman of color to vote. It saddens me when people say ‘I’m not going to go out there to vote.’ It means that you are negating a chance that has been given to you.
In the future when you look back, you can say ‘I helped make this happen,’ or ‘I didn't do my part.’ We have a choice, we have a vote, and we need to take it.
New American, Pakistani American
I once had the chance to vote for someone in a membership organization and I chose not to vote. A candidate that I didn't support was elected, and he won. He won by one single vote. I could have cast that vote [to create a tie].
I just recently became a citizen in October 2015. This is my first voting experience in the United States. I really want my vote to mean something and make a difference. So I caucused, and I voted in the primaries. I learned that I can be part of the community by presenting bills and ideas and convincing people [of changes that need to be made]. Even if we don’t get what we want, we can still come together and work because that is the power of citizenship. You should use your power. We can always come together and still make a difference.
2ND GENERATION, OROMO AMERICAN
I’m a very passionate person. I think voting is really important. I decided to become an election judge to help my community. I was born in Ethiopia. I am Oromo, one of the largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia. I moved here when I was 4 or 5 years old. I’m an Oromo American.
Being a bilingual person from an immigrant community I felt it was really important to have people there who spoke the language and could help [other immigrants] through the process.
The English language is really hard. If I can use my skills to give back and help people feel like they are contributing to society and having their voice heard in our government that’s something I wanted to be a part of. On election day, everyday Minnesotans can show support for Muslims and people of color who might be nervous about showing up at polling places. I would say to just smile to reassure and welcome diverse Minnesotans. Show a symbol of kindness, a wave, a smile, a hello. That will go a long way. Female Muslim voters are awesome. Our vote counts. As a community and as a group, we care about certain issues, and we shouldn’t be overlooked.
You’ve already voted?
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I wasn’t planning on voting. Can I change my mind today?
Yes! Visit mnvotes.org to learn where to go, what’s on your ballot and other
Do I need to be registered to vote ahead of time?
Minnesota has same day voter registration. Bring your Minnesota issued driver’s license or
state ID and you can register to vote at your precinct. Visit mnvotes.org to learn more.
How can I find my polling place?
Polling Place Finder - http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/
I’m nervous to vote by myself. How can I connect with
others so I feel safe?
Check out RISE’s Facebook page to connect with others!
Call 866-OUR-VOTE if you feel something’s not right at your polling place.
What are my rights as a voter?
Check out ACLU’s Know Your Voter Rights https://www.aclu.org/issues/voting-rights