CAIRO - Reflecting a growing political clout for Muslims in the United States, a number of mayoral candidates for New York city have attended a Muslim Ramadan iftar, in a bid to lure voters in the looming elections.
I'd like to say I planned it, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and one of the leading Democratic candidates for mayor, told The New York Times on Saturday, July 13.
I don't remember, ever before, the Muslim community having this kind of a presence in a citywide election she added.
Quinn, a leading Democratic candidate, was speaking during an iftar in a clubhouse in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, last Thursday.
The Ramadan event was planned by the Arab Muslim American Federation, an umbrella organization that represents 17 civic, educational and religious groups.
Hosted by local Muslim Americans, the iftar has attracted many politicians, hoping to extend new relations with the Muslim community.
For the Muslim community, it represented an opportunity to make its voice heard and build bridges with key government figures.
Along with Quinn, the iftar was attended by John C. Liu, the New York City comptroller who is also a Democratic mayoral candidate.
Sal F. Albanese, another Democratic candidate, had come and gone, while State Senator Eric Adams, a Democrat who is running for Brooklyn borough president, sat in a corner of the room.
A group of Brooklyn police officers have also occupied a table next to Quinn's.
The Thursday's iftar was the latest of several events this year in which mayoral candidates and Muslim groups courted one another.
In May, the Arab American Association of New York and the Islamic Center at New York University held a forum where Liu and another Democratic candidate, the Rev. Erick J. Salgado, said that they believed surveillance of Muslim institutions by the Police Department was unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, another Democratic candidate, Anthony D. Weiner, spoke at a Muslims for Peace event in Queens and noted that his wife was Muslim.
Courting New York Muslims, Democrat candidates raced to guarantee Muslim votes.
The Muslim community is on the political map in New York, Quinn said.
The days of ignoring the interests and the significance of this community, those days are over.
Liu, who has repeatedly visited Muslim groups, followed.
Assalamu Alaikum, he said, offering the customary Arabic greeting.
With a lot of hard work, inshallah, we will win this election and we will change this city.
Yet, the warm messages were not enough to break the ice with American Muslims, targeted be police surveillance over the past two years.
The community was already aggrieved when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg vetoed a Council recommendation to add two Muslim holidays to the school calendar.
In an appeal for support, Quinn said she would close schools for those holidays.
So if you get elected, we can count on that? Naji Almontaser, an American citizen born in Yemen, asked.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, she responded.
Some Muslims were hopeful, however, that these events would give Muslims a growing political clout in the United States.
We bring people in to let them know that we're a normal community, that we're not strangers, Ahmed Lamada, an Egyptian-American and the president of the federation, said.
Though there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to nearly six to eight million Muslims.
The Muslim Democratic Club of New York estimates that there are 105,000 registered Muslim voters in New York City.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net