New Democratic Club Brings Muslim-Americans Out From Shadows & Into Political Mainstream

By Andrea Karshan
Posted on September 2, 2016

Reflecting a growing political empowerment, the Muslim Democratic Club of New York is letting candidates know they have to stand by Muslims, not just during campaign session but also when the community comes under fire.

MDCNY is a community based Democratic club with the goal of educating, activating and engaging Muslim voters.  The club is led by its president Murad Awawdeh and has several hundred dues paying members throughout New York, mostly in Brooklyn and Queens. The members are mostly Arab and South Asian, but also include African Africans, Asians, and whites.

They are focusing on Brooklyn this year, primarily in the 44th District (Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Kensington), where they have endorsed Robert “Bobby” Carroll, and the 46th District (Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights), where they have endorsed Pamela Harris for the September 13th Primary. For these candidates, MDCNY will be phone banking and door knocking,  specifically targeting Muslim neighborhoods, to try to get Muslims to come out and vote in the primary.

“We are trying to engage and integrate as many people (Muslims) into this democratic process as possible. That they not only come out and vote but they understand what they are voting for. So they understand what a City Councilman does, what a Mayor does, what a Public Advocate does,” said Awawdeh.

MDCNY endorses issues that they feel are important to the Muslim community. For example, they recently endorsed the proposed Right to Know Act, which would  require NYPD officers to hand out business cards when asked, and have cops seeking to conduct searches in the absence of a legal basis be trained to request consent by eliciting a yes-or-no response and walk away if it is declined.

“We did a lot of work to get Muslim holidays incorporated into the school calendar and make students get a day off.  MDCNY is a very progressive organization. We support candidates who have a progressive vision.  Making sure that Democrats are coming out and supporting our community not just asking for our votes but also making sure they support us when there are critical issues in our community,” said Awawdeh.

In the City Council Member Vinnie Gentile‘s 43 District seat (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights) where it is rumored an Arab-American might run for the position, Awawdeh said the club would support whoever they endorse, and their endorsements are not based on race or religion but qualifications.

“We want to make sure someone coming in understands the needs of our community and how to address the issues we have. That the candidate is not just someone who will say what we want to hear and then back out on our community once they are in office. There is a ton of anti-Muslim sentiment in Bay Ridge. There are hate crimes happening in the district. We accept people to come out and support us when we are being vilified,” said Awawdeh.

MDCNY endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Primary. They plan to endorse Hillary Clinton at their next meeting for the general election.  

Awawdeh says MDCNY will do what it takes to get Clinton elected.

“Trump is anti-everything we stand for.  He stands for everything this country is not about.  He is the anti-American that we have not heard from in a very long time. And now he is giving people who were whispering various platforms,  a bullhorn to scream it out,” said Awawdeh.