Roula Allouch has a message for local Muslims: Get educated on the issues and turn out for early voting or at the polls on Nov. 6.
Allouch, 32, is president of the Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower the roughly 7 million Muslims in the United States and enhance the understanding of Islam.
The national organization announced this summer it had partnered with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to host local voter registration drives, phone banks, town hall meetings and candidate forums in the key swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
With a growing population – data from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census shows Islam was the fastest-growing religion in America in the last 10 years – American Muslims stand to play a decisive role in key battleground states, says Allouch, an Erlanger attorney.
QUESTION: What are some of the biggest challenges local Muslims face?
ANSWER: Members of the Muslim community are unfortunately discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs. They are oftentimes questioned by the police, FBI and other authorities, and we serve as a resource to them (Muslims) to know what their rights are.
We see a lot of issues with Muslim women in the area at school and work because of their choice to follow their religious beliefs and cover their heads with headscarves, the hijab.
Q: What issues are of concern to Muslims this election year?
A: To be free to practice our faith and raise our children and live in comfortable and safe neighborhoods and have access to education. Many in the Cincinnati Muslim community have concerns about the economy and jobs and student loans and health care issues and issues that impact all Americans on a daily basis. Many in the Muslim community are also concerned about foreign policy.
Q: Ohio is considered a battleground state. How much of an influence do you think the Muslim vote will hold on Ohio?
A: The smallest number of votes could make a difference here. There is a large enough Muslim community in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and throughout the state that it could have an impact. There are also Muslim populations in other key states, including Florida and Virginia. Too often the candidates, out of fear, don’t want to address the Muslim community and its concerns, but the numbers speak for themselves. The Muslim population in the U.S. and the number of Muslim-American voters are increasing.
Q: Do Muslims tend to lean Republican or Democrat?
A: CAIR is nonpartisan, and we don’t support one side or the other.
Q: Why is CAIR’s “Get out the Vote” campaign important?
A: Many in our community feel that this is a time where there is a general fear of the Muslim community. Many feel that that fear is based on a lack of information and understanding who American Muslims are and what we believe. Certainly in this election season, as in the past, there is a sense from the Muslim community that many major political candidates are fearful or hesitant to be identified with the Muslim community or refuse to address our constituency. Many in the American Muslim community understand that a way to really accomplish change is to be informed and cast an informed vote.