Jul 20, 2020
Joe Biden Speech at the Million Muslim Votes Summit Transcript July 20
Joe Biden addressed the Million Muslim Votes Summit virtually on July 20. He said: “If I have the honor of being president, I will end the Muslim ban on Day 1. Day 1”. Read the transcript of the event here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… mobilization in America. The Million Muslim Votes Campaign. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s make our voices heard because we got the means, we got the numbers and we got the power.
Speaker 2: (00:20)
Aysha Ahmed: (00:50)
Thank you all for that incredible video. Not only does it have a great beat, it never fails to get me hyped because of that line. We have the means. We have the numbers and we have the power. And I think this is going to be a theme that we’re going to see throughout our two days of the Million Muslim Votes Engage Action Summit. My name is Aysha Ahmed. I’m the deputy organizing director of Engage National, and I’m so excited to welcome you all to the first discussion of the day: Mobilizing a Community, The Million Muslim Votes story.
Aysha Ahmed: (01:23)
So how do we actually make our voices heard? To tackle this question, we’ve assembled a phenomenal team of social change warriors from organizations that are a part of the Million Muslim Votes Campaign from across the country to share their perspectives and their guidance on the challenge that is the 2020 presidential elections.
Aysha Ahmed: (01:45)
So it’s my honor to introduce our panelists in order of speaking. And then we’ll dive right in. First, we’ll be joined by Salam Al-Marayati, president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. We’re also joined by Nihad Alwad, executive director and co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. We’re also lucky to have Dr. Dilara Sayeed, president and co-founder of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition. Also joining us Rizwan Hasan, president and political outreach director of the Independent Political Action Committee of Georgia. And last, but certainly not least, we have executive director and co-founder of Empower Change, Linda Sarsour.
Aysha Ahmed: (02:31)
So enough from me. Let’s turn it right to the panelists. Please, if you could all share with us, why do you believe that this election is unlike any other you’ve seen in your work before? And how is this campaign, The Million Muslim Votes Campaign, playing a role in the election and beyond 2020 for the Muslim community? And I’d like to kick things off with none other than Salam first.
Salam Al-Marayati: (02:59)
Thank you, Aysha. Thank you. I’m so proud to see you leading us in this important campaign. And we’re very proud of to be partners with Engage. And especially with [inaudible 00:03:12], who’s doing a tremendous job in The Million Muslim Vote Campaign and very happy to be partners with you on that. And it just speaks to how far our community has come from just 10, 20 or 30 years ago. 30 years ago when we started, we could barely count the number of Muslims working in Washington on one hand. And now we see so many American Muslims serving our country and serving Islamic values. And I think that is one of the most important things for us to remember is that we are demonstrating how American and Islamic values are one and the same, to believe in justice, freedom, and pluralism. And for us in particular, we’re looking to create space for Muslims in public service, not to be viewed with suspicion anymore, but to be viewed for who we are, contributing to the betterment of our country, contributing to justice, working on socioeconomic and racial equality.
Salam Al-Marayati: (04:15)
And that leads me to the second point. And that is we don’t have real security as a country under this administration. Do we want four more years where there’s going to be the deterioration of our democratic institutions when people are not going to feel competent in the Department of Justice, in the Department of Health and Human Services, in The White House anymore to serve their needs. There is a void of real security in our country because we only look at militarization and policing and surveillance when it comes to security. But as Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Real security is about freedom from fear and freedom from one.” I should not have to fear every time I meet somebody from law enforcement. Unfortunately, millions of Americans, especially black Americans feel that fear. And we have to end this attack and assault on communities of color that unfortunately is riddling our country in terms of meeting those challenges of freedom from fear.
Salam Al-Marayati: (05:19)
And also we have the situation where we have to hold the next administration accountable to the promises, and we will continue to work for socioeconomic and racial justice. That is about human security. Human security is about the food, security, health security, racial equality, and that’s what we will work for. And finally, I just want to say that for those who are still thinking about voting, you pay taxes, your omission will then determine others, how those tax dollars are going to be spent. So therefore it is our Islamic responsibility to make sure that our tax dollars are used for just purposes. And that is where we will continue to make American Muslims known for who we are and not allow others to define our narratives. So again, thank you very much for letting us have these few moments with you. And we’re very proud to be partners with Engage and involved in The Million Muslim Vote Campaign.
Aysha Ahmed: (06:19)
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Salam. And a quick plug for MPAC’s I Am Change program. It’s how I got my start here today. And I’m sitting in this chair with you all. So thank you so much. I’d like to turn it to Nihad Awad.
Nihad Awad: (06:41)
Unmute again. [foreign language 00:06:42]. Peace be to you. Thank you so much, Engage, for engaging us in a discussion on a very, very important and could be historical election. And I’m also echo what Salam said. We’re also proud partners of The Million Vote from the Muslim community with Engage and we applaud the leadership of all of you and especially [inaudible 00:07:12]. So we look forward to mobilizing the Muslim community’s votes on a very, very critical issue.
Nihad Awad: (07:21)
CAIR is a 501(c)(3) organization so we cannot endorse candidates for public office. However, let me reflect the views of the constituents that we serve in the 50 states. We are very much concerned about the civil rights and civil liberties of American Muslims and other minorities. Something that we had seen that the civil liberties have eroded in the past few years under this administration.
Nihad Awad: (07:54)
Not only that we have the pandemic, COVID-19, but also we have the pandemic of racism that has been elevated, promoted and endorsed by this administration. The anti-Muslim racism is spiking under this administration. Islamophobia has been normalized. Something that we are used to seeing from extremist organizations, extremist individuals. Now The White House is championing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-black policies, and that has caused the erosion of the health and wealth and standing of America at home and around the world. I would like to hear on behalf of our constituents, to hear from Vice President Biden, how soon is he planning to repeal the Muslim ban? The president, President Trump, has issued several executive orders that have limited the rights of people to come to this country and deprive American Muslims from receiving and meeting their loved ones.
Nihad Awad: (09:06)
Also the criminal justice system needs to be reformed. Today, we see a wave of support for African American people in our society, but we need serious reform on the Federal and state level. And if the tone is not set by the White House, we will see more losses of lives and liberties, especially among our brothers and sisters in the African American community. Also gauging people, [inaudible 00:09:37] kids and their families in at the borders is something that we cannot allow to continue. So young Muslim voters, like the rest of Muslim voters, would like to see a serious change, not just minor and superficial change. We have, at CAIR, submitted a proposal for policy reform to the Biden campaign. I hope that we will hear today from the representative of the campaign, including Vice President, some very concrete changes.
Nihad Awad: (10:10)
Today there is a blue wave. There’s a progressive wave that’s trying to align the American values with policies. We see the squad in the Congress saying to all of us that justice is indivisible. If we care about justice at home, we have to also care about justice abroad, especially countries and states that we support like the state of Israel. Where does the Biden campaign stand on conditioning the aid to Israel if Israel is planning to annex the West Bank. We care also about the Muslims in China, what’s happening to them. We hear that the Trump administration gave the green light for concentration camps against Muslims. The people in Kashmir, Myanmar population, all of them, they need our support and American Muslims are very concerned about this. We look forward to hearing concrete policies so that we excite the community for a change in the next administration. Thank you.
Aysha Ahmed: (11:15)
Thank you so much, Nihad. And that we also echo your calls for serious reforms and changes moving forward. So we’ll be excited to hear in our next session from the Vice President himself. I’d like to turn to next to Dr. Dilara Sayeed, thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (11:32)
[foreign language 00:11:33] and we are creators. Peace be with each of you. Thank you. The Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition is a proud partner of all of the organizations here, including Engage and Engage Action with our coalition activate C4. So as Salam and Nihad have said, 2020 is critical. We’re fighting for the health and the soul of our nation. We’re in the midst of a pandemic with no team plan from our leadership. We’re in the midst of a historic racial shift and too many leaders are giving their communities the options of either denial or destruction.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (12:13)
And American Muslims, like all Americans, are embroiled in this mess right now. Some of our community members are patients inflicted with the virus while some are the first responders and physicians treating COVID-19 patients. We are black, brown, tan, and white of all ethnic backgrounds. We have some of the highest net worth and philanthropic families and many of the lowest income families that the government and we fellow Americans have too often ignored. We have American Muslim elected and public officials. And yet we also have those whose votes are being suppressed at every election. We are formally enslaved. We are citizens. We are immigrants and we are undocumented. And you know what? Today we’re collectively working to get a million Muslim voters, a million Muslim voters. As Salam said earlier, I’m not sure we would have been even passable when my family immigrated in the 50s and 60s. A million Muslim votes means a million Muslim stories. Stories we can tell.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (13:26)
Current research tells us this works with our community because our community wants to be heard. And it works outside our communities because people want to know us. Voting and census is how we can make sure we are heard. Your story, every single person on this call and every single Muslim and American listening, your story is the one we’re telling. We went into the neighborhoods of the American Illinois Muslim Civic coalition team. And we listened to some of those stories. So to do our work, we’re creating, along with the Million Muslim Voters video, cards, census cards, and voting cards to focus on those stories. Let me give you a few examples.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (14:12)
Story of Randall, a leader in our Chicago community whose enslaved ancestors counted as three fifths of one human being. So Randall says, “I count as a whole person and I’m going to make sure I count in the census.” We’re telling the story of Chris Nevarez [Asdar 00:14:31] , a Latino Muslim undocumented student applying to law school. We’re telling the story of Dahlia who will make sure she votes as just someone entering college for the first time.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (14:45)
Check out all our stories at our website on Illinoismuslims.org, and check out the Engage video again. We’ve got it up on our website as well. And we’ll help you create your story for your community. Look, we’re one percent of the U.S. population. Over 80% of Americans have never met a Muslim in person. All they get are the negative images or no images. When we hear our own stories and then we tell our collective story to fellow Americans across the nation, when legislators and elected officials know the important roles we play in COVID-19 response, in philanthropy, in every sector and the challenges we face, then we count. Then we make a difference and we help America become a more just place for all of us.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (15:40)
So our asks at the coalition are as simple and as key as what Engage’s video told us. 2020 is critical. Right now, please vote. Get your vote-by-mail ballot now at vote.gov. Number two, please count in the Census, go to 2020census.gov. And number three, after you’re done with number one and two, go tell a dozen family and friends to do the same. We’re all in with Engage and every partner here. Thank you.
Aysha Ahmed: (16:13)
Well, you have it. Folks, we already have homework on the line. Please follow through with those steps that Dr. Dilara outlined for us. And I really-
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (16:24)
I’m a former eighth grade teacher.
Aysha Ahmed: (16:26)
Absolutely. We already got the work ahead of us. So this is a great game plan to get us started and at Engage we love the idea of stories. So thank you for sharing a little bit about Randall and so many others. Truly behind all these numbers there are real stories of real humans and that’s what makes this work so important. So thank you so much. I’m already so excited. And I’d like to share it, turn the screen next to you for Rizwan Hasan.
Nihad Awad: (16:59)
Okay. Thank you, Aysha. I shall thank you for including IPAC and from Atlanta. Can you see my screen?
Aysha Ahmed: (17:13)
Yup. We can hear you and see you.
Nihad Awad: (17:15)
Great. Okay. So I’m happy to join you from hot Atlanta, Hotlanta as we like to call it. I came to America many years ago like many of us, because I believed in what this country offered, opportunity to succeed, responsible government and general goodwill. And for the most part, all those things were true about America, are true about America. I have benefited. Many people I know like me who have benefited and we are grateful for what America has offered. But it is of concern that we are trending in the wrong direction. We are trending in the wrong direction. Imagine Federal government fighting governors on issues that concern all of us. Imagine governors of states filing lawsuits against city mayors relating to COVID supposedly. Is that all for politics? It sure is. And that is not acceptable. It is not okay for our resources to be wasted as elected officials create this environment of tussle between leaders we need to do the right thing for all of us.
Nihad Awad: (18:42)
I believe that this November is the most consequential election that I have experienced in my 40 plus years in this country. In this election, we must influence our country’s future. It is our country. It is our country, isn’t it? So do we choose our country to be a magnanimous, compassionate and inclusive country, an example for others in the world to follow? Or do we want our country to be exclusive to a certain class of race of people, to be divisive and mean spirited? I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s what we want for our country’s future or for any of us.
Nihad Awad: (19:28)
So we have a choice. We have a choice to make, and we need to make the choice with deliberation, every responsibility. We must resolve to follow the way of our dear departed leader, John Lewis from Georgia, who I had opportunity several times to meet and highly respect and love that man, who reminded us often that we must not give up. We must never give up the fight for the right things. We must commit ourselves to restoration of democracy, civility, and truth. And what happened to those values? Remember values? We must trust science and reason over conjecture and harmful instinct, real information over conspiracy theories. We must look after the best interest of all Americans, all of us. The wellbeing of our next generation depends on it. We should expect that someday in the future, our future generation will ask us, they will ask us, what did we do the right the ship when things were headed in the wrong direction, what did we do?
Nihad Awad: (20:41)
And it is up to us. It is up to every one of us to take part and make sure that things head in the right direction and to right the ship. We must own this election. We must own it. It is up to us. It is up to every one of us. We must vote for inclusivity, for unity and for real leadership. We must vote to participate in this wonderful initiative of Engage a Million Muslim Voter project. We’re happy to be partnered with the Engage IPAC in Georgia. And we want all of our candidates in Georgia and across the country, but especially in Georgia, which is where we are, to know that we are here, that we will have an impact on this election. We will make a difference and we will help elect candidates who are good for this country in the longterm and good for everyone of us.
Nihad Awad: (21:44)
And as a final comment, another quote from Roosevelt that, “This country will not be good enough for any of us to live in. This country will not be good enough for any of us to live in until this country is good enough for all of us to live in.”
Aysha Ahmed: (22:06)
Wow, thank you so much, Rizwan. Your questions are so thought provoking. They brought chills. So thank you so much for sharing that and for joining us from Georgia, which has increasingly become the center of a lot of voting rights work. So thank you so much for setting the stage for us. And I’m so excited to welcome none other than Linda Sarsour. I mean, her name says it all. We’re so excited to have you join us.
Linda Sarsour: (22:34)
Good afternoon, everyone. [foreign language 00:22:35]. Thank you so much, Engage, for inviting me here today and for all my colleagues who are on this call. I’m from Brooklyn as many of you know, and Palestinian. So I’m just going to cut to the chase and get right to it. This election for me is about one simple question. Are we ready as a nation to defeat fascism? This is not about who you like and who you don’t like. It’s about whether you want to defeat fascism in America. This election for me is not about Joe Biden. This election for me…
Linda Sarsour: (23:03)
This election for me is not about Joe Biden, this election for me is a down-ballot race. And I want people to understand the way politics works, it works from the bottom up. So if you are supporting down-ballot candidates across the country, progressive young black people, people of color, immigrants, Muslims who are running, as you get excited, as you engage in these races, those votes will trickle up to the top. So if you’re not excited about this election, find a local candidate in your community, make those calls, get on that campaign, knock those doors, engage in phone banking, that’s where the real power is going to be and that is what’s going to help elect someone like Joe Biden. This election for me is about voting for my mother, voting for refugees and immigrants and undocumented people, voting for black people in America. This is an election about what are you willing to sacrifice for others who are literally under the thumb of this fascist administration. And I am committed to all of you, and I challenge all of you about what that work is going to look like after the November election.
Linda Sarsour: (24:03)
This work that we’re doing does not end at the election. So if we do defeat fascism, if Donald Trump is no longer the president of the United States of America, I hope that you as Muslim Americans are ready for the long road ahead of us to make sure that our issues are on the agenda. At our organization, we have the MyMuslimVote campaign that we are also very proud to partner with many people on this call. And we are going to be focusing our work in very key states, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. We have a significant voter population in those states and we are going to be moving those folks forward. For me, I want also folks to understand that it is important for us, and I understand, I’m speaking to where the people are, because I’m on the street and I know what our people are thinking.
Linda Sarsour: (24:51)
Our community is committed to ending the occupation of the Palestinian people. Our community is committed to Muslims who are oppressed all over the world. We are also committed to the people in our own backyards, to black people who are being killed at the hands of law enforcement in almost every city in this country, undocumented families, people without healthcare in this country. So I want you to know that, commit to doing two things, voting to defeat fascism, and committing yourself to the work that’s going to happen the day after, because we and our community and organizes across the country, we want to see Joe Biden in the White House. But we also want Joe Biden to know that we will hold him accountable to our communities, that we will be at his doorstep, we will ensure that we are heard in this administration, and that we will fight for the things that we believe in, and that we are not going to end our work on election day.
Linda Sarsour: (25:43)
And so, I’m inviting our community to understand that we are in a serious situation, and this is Linda Sarsour, and you already know what team I was on in this primary. I’m letting you know that we need you, that I’m going to be casting my vote, because this vote is not for me, it’s a solidarity vote. I’m voting for the most traumatized and broken and hurt people in America that are being continuously marginalized by this administration. I’m also a protester, and this administration has set black ops and unidentified militias to protest, to kidnap us off the streets. And so if you care about our work, if you care about my work and you want us to live in a democracy, in a place where we can engage in free speech, then you make sure that you join me this November and that you defeat fascism in America, and that you commit to the work that happens after this election. Thank you so much, Emgage.
Aysha Ahmed: (26:34)
Thank you so much. Absolutely with you there on getting involved and taking action now and not waiting until November 3rd, 2020 to take a step in the right direction. So, open call here to join us all in this effort. We have just a few moments before we shift into our next session and I’d like to ask our panelists, up for anyone to answer, what is something that, what brings you hope for our community in this election season?
Linda Sarsour: (27:12)
I can just add.
Aysha Ahmed: (27:13)
Linda Sarsour: (27:13)
As a protestor who’s been on the streets, actually I was worried I wasn’t going to get on this call because I just came from Kentucky., We just got arrested in Kentucky and were charged with felony charges for protesting outside of the home of Attorney General, Daniel Cameron in Kentucky. What gives me hope is the young people in the streets. These unapologetic young people who have said, “Enough is enough,” and this time, these young people mean it. And so that’s what gives me hope, that we are in a transformative period in our country and I hope that this administration, this next administration that we hope is not Donald Trump, understands that transformation and that we are willing to put our lives on the line to truly live in a nation that reflects our values and principles as a people.
Linda Sarsour: (27:52)
And I wanted to add that our organization, Mpower Change, is doing a training summit on August 13. So while this is a great informational opportunity for us to join together, to hear from Vice President Biden, if you are interested in being actually trained to engage in voter engagement work, we are going to be working with Emgage as well and some other folks on this call on August 13. So you can go to mymuslimvote.org and register for this training so that you can have tools to participate so that when we defeat fascism in America, you can say, “I was a part of that. In 2020, I worked in my community to defeat fascism and win this 2020 election.”
Salam Al-Marayati: (28:28)
If I could just add that, I also have… I agree with Linda in terms of hope with the young people. I also feel that there’s hope with our community. Our community is making changes every day, and I think that our involvement is enriching our society in advocating for justice. As I said before, 30 years ago we were not on the scene, now we’re on the scene. We’re a target of hate groups, but it’s better to be a target of these hate groups than to be ignored. And I think that our voice is going to be heard, and what else gives me hope is how Emgage and all of our organizations today have come together to coalesce for one purpose, and that is to get the million Muslim votes for November 3rd. That gives us a lot of hope and definitely there’s a lot of hope for Islam and America and a promise for American Islam.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (29:24)
To add onto both of those, I’d like to add that we’re at every level as well of the government, of political sectors, of economic sectors, of social service sectors and its civic sectors. I’m hearing now [Imman 00:29:37] saying the, prophet, [foreign language 00:06:39], our dean, our being here as Americans means we must vote. I’m hearing social service organizations and watching them and handing out with them, bags during CO… bags of care during COVID that includes census cards and include vote voting cards. And so I think that’s the work that’s hopeful, is that young people are getting involved, our community is getting involved, and we’re getting involved at every single opportunity to do this. That’s what’s going to change. Apathy is not an option, engage.
Nihad Awad: (30:19)
What gives me hope is… I say, “Thank God that I lived through a major historical change in American society where people really started to care about each other, not only caring about themselves.” The cross sectional solidarities that we see in the streets, African Americans are not fighting their fight by themselves, now everybody is fighting with them. And when we started to recognize that the suffering of other people, the injustice that’s inflicted on other people, is inflicted on us and we take ownership to change it, that gives me hope. And also it really implements the beautiful saying of the prophet that when you see evil, do something, say something, or at least reject it in your heart. But today we have to have systems in place to create this transformational change in our society.
Nihad Awad: (31:20)
And my final message is, we would like the candidate, Biden, I’m speaking in my personal capacity now, to give hope for young American Muslims that he’s going to be different and he will just depart from historical policies of the government that targeted minorities, targeted American Muslims. For example, we’ve been fighting the watch list where there’s over 1 million people on the watch list, they are being harassed in airports, but that started, unfortunately during the Obama administration, not during the Trump administration. I would like to see a serious shift and change so that we see a new America that equally sees people and treats them equally. Thank you.
Rizwan Hasan: (32:07)
I think if I may add, I think the hope that we should all aspire to and look forward to, is the fact that America is diverse and the future of America is diverse. And if we looked at the American Muslim [inaudible 00:32:22] ban protest that took place at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, the crowd that showed up extremely diverse. So America is with us, we’re with America. And what’s good for us, it’s good for our country, what’s good for our country is good for us.
Aysha Ahmed: (32:36)
Thank you so much again for painting the picture of hope. We still have a few minutes before we can shift, I want to just reintroduce for folks who are just joining us, we have Salam Al-Marayati, from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, we have Nihad Awad from the Council on American-Islamic relations, we have Dr. Dilara Sayeed from the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, Rizwan Hasan from the Independent Political Action Committee of Georgia, and Linda Sarsour from Mpower Change. So thank you so much for all joining us. I guess if I could ask another question and the follow up, obviously we’re less than a, almost less than a hundred days from November 3rd, and there’s a lot of pressure on 2020 about we’re going to quickly turn around into 2021 as well. Is there something that you’d like to direct your attention towards for our community when we hit January 1st, 2021 or inauguration day?
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (33:39)
Well, actually first I’d like to start off by saying you can apply for your vote by mail currently in most states, so please don’t wait till November 3rd. November 3rd’s the last day to vote, the first date of vote can be as soon as you get those applications in. The application comes in and your state allows for registration and to vote, so you need to do that. Number one, check your registration, number two, make sure you apply to vote, and number three, as soon as you can, vote. So don’t take any of that for granted, November 3rd’s the last date as far as I’m concerned not the day you vote. So for 2021, those are the elections that we have the most Muslim candidates join, so get to know the community. The Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition has a fellowship of support and mentorship for those who are considering candidacy. We have to have a strong candidates, viable candidates with a strategy and a path to victory.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (34:35)
We have to learn from every candidacy and then implement it in our communities as a learning and as a tool and as an opportunity to get better. So, we’re already thinking of 2021, we’re already getting candidates ready for 2021, and we’re looking at other candidates that are not identified as Muslim, but are allies, that are partners in so many things. So you don’t take anyone for granted, we all work together for a better America, not because of someone’s identity, race, religion, or ethnic background. And so let’s come together, let’s come together for 2020, and then let’s stay together because we’ve got a lot of work to keep doing.
Salam Al-Marayati: (35:12)
If I could build on what Dilara just said, and I’m glad you asked that question, Aysha. The work doesn’t stop on November 3rd, it’s not about a horse race. It’s not about, “Oh, I’m hopeful now because my candidate won,” or, “Which antidepressant am I going… antidepressant do I need, because my candidate lost.” That’s not how it works. That’s not effective work. What works is, no matter who wins in January of 2021, we will continue to work for justice. This is a long road for justice.
Salam Al-Marayati: (35:44)
And so, as the Quran says, “We have been ordered to enjoin what is right and prevent what is harmful. We advocate for the policies that are beneficial in terms of healthcare, education, racial justice, socioeconomic justice, justice overall, here and abroad, and we oppose those that are harmful to our society.” We have to be part of the coalition throughout America that does exactly that. And so if the candidate that we want wins, then it’s time to engage government, to engage the arms of government including law enforcement, to promote what is right and prevent what is harm and to do away with the unjust policies of our country and to promote those policies that are benefiting our society.
Linda Sarsour: (36:35)
Aysha, I hope that people in our community don’t go to sleep after the election, January is when the work really starts. I’m tired of our Muslim community waking up every four years trying to explain to me which presidential candidate I should be voting for. They are elections every single year, so on January you continue to register voters, you continue to engage voters in your community. And I’m also asking our Muslim community that there’s a lot of rhetoric, but there aren’t, isn’t a lot of action in the streets. If you want Medicare for all, if you want a just immigration policy, if you want to see an end to the military occupation of the Palestinian people, then I need you on the streets all the time. I need you to be engaged all the time. And that’s a responsibility that we have to take accountability, not just for those who are in leadership, but also for our own community.
Linda Sarsour: (37:18)
And when I go to, when I went to Kentucky on the streets of Louisville to fight for Breonna Taylor, I want to see more Muslims in the street. You can’t just sit in your house tell me, “Black lives matter,” I need to see you out in these streets telling me that black lives matter, standing shoulder to shoulder with black people, both inside of our community and outside of our community. And when we talk about Medicare for all, calling your elected officials, making sure that we pass a bill in Congress for Medicare for all that we hope gets to the best of, what we hope to be president Joe Biden, so that we can really move forward in this country together. So please don’t fall asleep, as our friend, as our young people in the streets say all the time, “Stay woke, stay consistent, stay persistent.” And let’s make sure that the people who are in elected office, from the president all the way down to your local school board, they work for you, you don’t work for them.
Linda Sarsour: (38:09)
And so we want to make sure that our Muslim community continues to hold our leadership accountable and make sure they remember that they work for us. And the only way they will know that is we continue to build power, we mobilize, we continue to call people, not just when they do wrong, but also when they do right. If someone is voting for a bill that you support, you need to pick up the phone and say, “You know what? Congressman so-and-so, Congresswoman so-and-so, thank you for doing that.” When Joe Biden does the right thing, you better believe Linda Sarsour is going to say, “You know what? Thank you so much, President Joe Biden for doing the right thing.” And when President Joe Biden doesn’t do the right thing, our community needs to come together and hold him accountable, not because we think people are bad people but because we want them to be better. And that is the mission of our community, that we have to have an agenda and we have to have issues, and we have to be consistent, and we have to be organized and coordinated.
Rizwan Hasan: (38:59)
I will support the idea of staying engaged. You know what’s easiest? Is to stay engaged with your local state rep. Your local state rep is your neighbor, the local state rep will take your phone call, will respond to you. You may not be able to reach the president or the senator as we need, but your local state rep absolutely wants to hear from you, is your neighbor, and you must stay engaged with your local state rep as a minimum. So we have an opportunity to stay engaged, use the opportunity. And you’re right, the election isn’t over, our engagement isn’t over November 3rd, it has to continue every day and every year.
Nihad Awad: (39:35)
And they also, If I may add, I second everything that everyone said, especially Linda because she started the conversation about not stopping on the election, on the day of the election, but to continue. This is a continuous and total engagement. Not only that, just to hold our elected officials informed and accountable, and let me just open parenthesis and quickly to say that I’m so happy to see many communities now holding an annual Muslim advocacy day on the Capitol, going to the state representatives and talk about the local issues, the local concerns, the local agenda. And also on the national level, [inaudible 00:40:15] all will hold every year, a meeting for Muslims voters and concerned citizens to come to Washington DC, to talk about everyday issue that American Muslims care about.
Nihad Awad: (40:28)
But not only that, be the change you want to see, don’t just vote for people. If you are eligible to run for public office, why don’t you run for public office yourself? The community will support you. I’m so happy to see so many people running for public office from the community and breaking this glass ceiling. I know that it’s not easy to be in service of the public, but this is the right thing to do. Put your faith in action and be in service of our community. So not only voting on the election day, but be an elected official yourself and organize and support the people who work with the community. And that is a year long process, not only on the day of the election,
Aysha Ahmed: (41:20)
Absolutely. I’m losing track of all the phenomenal gems that you guys have presented with us today. Change doesn’t start at the poll, or it doesn’t just end there, it starts there. There’s a great saying that Linda put us with, “Stay woke, stay persistent, stay consistent.” Dr. Dilara Sayeed gave us homework, you guys make sure that you are getting your vote by mail applications in, make sure you’re being counted in the census, make sure you’re doing your research and your homework. Dr. Dilara, if I might put you on the spot, I know you recently ran for office yourself, so you really do know what you’re talking about when it comes to being a candidate yourself. So could you, do you want to share a couple of gems or lessons that you had from that experience?
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: (42:04)
Absolutely. And this is part of what we started with the idea of the, Our Story. When our communities know us, when we’re working within the communities before we run, when we’re teachers, when we’re educators, when we’re contractors, when we’re doctors, when our community knows us as those who’ve been part of the work, those who have not just woken, but have been trying to stay awake and stay persistent and stay consistent for years, it becomes natural that then we can also move forward to running for office. So yes, we absolutely need our American Muslim community to step up and run for office, we want them to also do the work behind the scenes so that we’re ready to step into office when it’s that time. So please reach out for support as you need it, and let’s do this.
Aysha Ahmed: (43:00)
Let’s do it. Absolutely. Again, thank you all for your patience and flexibility too. We’re just upon the arrival of Vice President, Joe Biden. Before we shift over to him, I do have another followup. Oh, okay, I’m so sorry, I’m getting live updates. So, thank you all for joining us on our first topic for today, we really had some compelling visions and paved why we all have a critical role to play in this collective journey to November. So I want to thank everyone who joined us today in this first panel, this work is only possible because of your resilient dedication. Leadership is not easy and especially in this movement that we’re building now, so thank you so much. I’d like to turn our attention to Emgage Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Khurrum Wahid. (silence)
Khurrum Wahid: (44:25)
Hello everyone. Thanks for joining us here today. I want to take a moment and talk to you about Muslim Americans. Muslim Americans, like all of America herself, are from every race and ethnicity. Some, my parents, adopted a new nation for stability and opportunity, others have been here for generations, maybe not voluntarily then, but part of the fabric now. We’re every link of the socioeconomic ladder. Clearly Muslims are not a monolith, but we are connected by a common set of values that allow us to identify ourselves as Muslim Americans. For me, Muslim Americans are heroic people, I grew up with parents and siblings who were part of building local communities through institutions.
Khurrum Wahid: (45:19)
I saw how hard it was to put today’s time into building for tomorrow, yet this community has done that repeatedly. And most of those people are here with us today, representing institutions that champion human rights for all humans, at home and abroad, fighting for civil rights every day, not just for Muslim Americans, but for everybody, feeding the homeless and providing disaster relief, and providing free healthcare access to anyone who needs. It in a United America, Muslims believe we are collectively raising each other’s children. The Muslim community has long felt marginalized, scapegoated, and otherized, but instead of moving off into a corner and hiding-
Khurrum Wahid: (46:03)
Otherized, but instead of moving off into a corner, and hiding, and giving into those feelings, we’ve created movements, movements such as Emgage, that counts their votes, fights for the policies that reflect their collective values, both as Muslims and Americans, in order to support those who are our allies, public servants who join our values and will be with us to fight for human rights, social justice, and a more inclusive America. That is why Emgage Action has endorsed you, Mr. Vice President, and why we are so honored to have you here today. This is truly a historic moment for Muslim Americans in the United States and abroad, where a presidential nominee has engaged us at such a high priority. It shows us that you care. You care about us, and our values, and the issues that we care about. It shows us that you believe in us.
Khurrum Wahid: (46:58)
Mr. Vice President, I want you to know that we believe in you. I know you’ll prioritize issues that affect Muslim Americans because you’ve said that when you attended the Claymont Center of Delaware, and you said publicly that you believe that Muslims should not be vilified, that Muslims are part of America. You have moved forward funding to nations with large Muslim populations, not for military purposes, but for health and education. You’ve championed the inclusion of Muslim American institutions at the policy table on a wide range of subjects, taking them out of the lens of only national security, and encouraging them to be seen through the lens of national assets on a wide range of topics.
Khurrum Wahid: (47:43)
In addition, I know you’re an empathetic human being. It’s something I love most. I feel that’s what’s missing right now in America. I count on you to restore that sense of caring for the collective. With you, Mr. Vice-President, we will not just have a seat at the table, but a real voice. We want to partner with you to fix the societal harm of this Trump presidency. We know you’re the best person to lead our nation forward, and we’re putting our trust in you. Because of that, we are behind you. We have a swing state strategy, and we will deliver for you: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. We will activate large groups of voters in Texas and Arizona. We will turn out one million votes nationally. We’re going to ask everyone we know to vote Joe on November 3rd. With that, everyone, I introduce to you the next president of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden.
VIce President Biden: (48:36)
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Hi, everyone. To everyone at Emgage for organizing this event… Look, I want to thank Emgage and the PAC for endorsing my campaign. I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done so far. Thank you for taking the time for watching today. Look, one of the things I think is important… I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith. I wish we talked about all the great confessional faiths. It’s one of the great confessional faiths. What people don’t realize is… One of my advocation is theology. Don’t realize is that we all come from the same root here in terms of our fundamental, basic beliefs.
VIce President Biden: (49:20)
I just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity, for being engaged, for committing to action this November. You’re doing what’s been… that’s never been done before. You’re registered and turning out one million Muslim voters this November. It matters. Your voice is your vote. Your vote is your voice. Muslim American voices matter to our communities, to our country. We all know that your voice hasn’t always gotten recognized, or represented, or the recognition it deserves. That’s your right as a citizen. What you’re doing is making a real difference. I mean that.
VIce President Biden: (50:02)
Look, this weekend, I lost a friend. We lost the champion for civil rights of all people, a tireless advocate for making sure every single person could access the power of their vote, the great Congressman John Lewis. From the time he first marched with Dr. King until his last march last month of Black Lives Matter, he understood viscerally that the rights and freedoms of all people are connected. We’re all connected. No one is free while other people are oppressed. It was no surprise that when Donald Trump announced the Muslim ban during his first week in office, John went directly to Hartsfield International Airport in his home district in Atlanta to demand answers of immigration officials. They wouldn’t tell him how many people were being detained. You know what his answer was, simply? Quote, “Why don’t we just sit down and stay awhile?” end of quote.
VIce President Biden: (50:58)
As always, John Lewis knew where to stand or to sit to be on the right side of history. The best way to honor John’s legacy is to continue his purpose, continue his commitment to making it easier for every American to cast their ballot and participate in our democracy. In memory of John, Congress should take up the legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, the legislation he fought so courageously for. They should take it up immediately. If they don’t, I’ll make sure it happens at the beginning of my administration.
VIce President Biden: (51:33)
Look, Mr. Chairman, I don’t have to tell any of you that this is the most important election in modern American history. Muslim communities are the first to field Donald Trump’s assault on black and brown communities in this country with his vile Muslim ban. That fight was the opening barrage in what has been nearly four years of constant pressure, and insults, and attacks against Muslim American communities, Latino communities, black communities, AAPI communities, Native Americans. Now Donald Trump has fanned the flames of hate in this country across the board through his words, his policies, his appointments, his deeds, and he continues to fan those flames.
VIce President Biden: (52:20)
Under this administration, we’ve seen unconscionable, an unconscionable rise in Islamic phobia in incidents, including kids being bullied in school and hate crimes in our communities. He’s named people with a history of open Islamic phobia, open, straightforward, who have no business serving in high positions in our government to key leadership roles in our Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development.
VIce President Biden: (52:47)
He’s not only an insult to our values, it weakens our standing in the world. What message does this send to the rest of the world? We have led the world not just by the example of our power, but the power of our example. He’s making a mockery of what we stand for. We can do something about it. I’m here today to ask you to join me in a fight to rip this poison from our government root and stem, or as the famous case said, “Root and branch,” starting by making Donald Trump a one-term president this November. I’m not just asking for your support because the alternative is unthinkable. I want to earn your vote, not just because he’s not worthy of being president. I want to work in partnership with you to make sure your voices are included in the decision-making process as we work to rebuild our nation. We can’t just build back to where we were before Donald Trump took office. We have to build back better.
VIce President Biden: (53:48)
Right now, we’re facing a trio of urgent crises in this nation: a public health crisis as this pandemic is heading in the wrong direction, an economic crisis with millions of Americans out of work and small businesses struggling to survive, and a racial justice crisis, a long overdue national reckoning about the way our country has treated blacks, browns, and Native Americans. I know Muslim Americans feel that too, especially black Muslims. These come on top of a looming climate crisis, deep-seated economic inequities that have too long divided this country, rewarding those at the very top while working-class folks have to work harder and harder just to stay where they are.
VIce President Biden: (54:36)
There’s not a single one of these issues where Muslim Americans don’t have a critical stake in our ability to deliver solutions and real results. There’s not one of these issues where Muslim Americans aren’t essential to our success. Our Muslim medical professionals to frontline workers are fighting around the clock to beat back this virus, risking their own health in the process, or the Muslim small business owners who are the pillars of their community, but have worried about how to keep their doors open. Muslim CEOs are keeping people on the job and keeping our country running like pioneer service outside of Chicago, which retold during COVID-19 from making auto park to manufacturing ventilators. To the Muslims who have suffered abuse and discrimination or worse because of their faith, color of their skin, those working to advance social justice every single day, all those Muslims who have served in the United States military have committed to do so and continue to do so today.
VIce President Biden: (55:43)
I’ll be a president who recognize and honors your contributions. These contributions go back, by the way, to our founding. I’ll be a president who seeks out, listens to, and incorporates the ideas and concerns of Muslim Americans on everyday issues that matter most to our communities. That will include having Muslim American voices as part of my administration. If I have the honor of being president, I will end the Muslim ban on day one, day one. I’ll work with Congress to pass hate crime legislation like the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act and end the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act.
VIce President Biden: (56:27)
I’ll be focused on issues that matter to all Americans: getting the virus under control, addressing health dispersions, working to expand access to healthcare by protecting and building out Obamacare with a public option. I promise you, I’ll make historic investments to revitalize our economy by strengthening American manufacturing and the supply chains and by making sure American workers have an opportunity to join a union and earn a real living wage.
VIce President Biden: (56:57)
I like to make sure that all our children are prepared and equipped to succeed in the 21st century. Economy has to change and get better by making critical investments in our teachers and our schools. We’re going to triple the funding for schools in low-income areas. We’re not going to leave schools and child centers on their own to figure out how to keep educators and students safe during a pandemic.
VIce President Biden: (57:24)
We’re going to restore American leadership around the world, starting by putting our democratic values and our diplomacy at the center of our foreign policy again. I won’t be writing any love letters to dictators. I won’t fail to speak out against the abuses of human rights, including targeting for violence and prosecution of Muslim minorities around the world. I have, and I’ll continue to speak out for the Uyghurs in Rohingya.
VIce President Biden: (57:53)
I’ll work to close those God-awful policies. I’ll work in close cooperation with our partners to meet the moral demands of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Yemen, and Gaza. I’ll continue to champion the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to have a state of their own as I have for decades, each of them, a state of their own. We’re not going to be able to do any of this if we don’t win in November. That’s why this event and your involvement is so critical. We can’t afford anyone to stay in the sidelines and sit this election out.
VIce President Biden: (58:32)
We need you. I need you. I need you to mobilize and motivate one another to register to vote, to make a plan for how to vote safely in November. Make it now. Talk to all your friends and families, to engage colleagues from your mosque and your community centers to get them engaged as well. Hadith from the prophet Muhammad, instructs, “Whomever among you sees wrong, let him change it with his hand. If he is not able, then with his tongue. If he is not able, then with his heart.”
VIce President Biden: (59:12)
So many of you are living this teaching in your own communities every day, joining your faith and your principles with the American principles that are consistent, actions to take and make life better for your families, for your neighbors, through service, advocacy work, and preaching peace. You deserve to have a president and an administration who’ll work with you and support you in these efforts, not try to scapegoat your communities or advance xenophobic political agenda on the back of Muslim communities. If I have the honor of being elected president of the United States, together, we can work to right the wrongs, and see our world, and see it better with our hearts, with our hands, with our votes. Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you so much. Thank you so, so very much. May peace be upon you.
Khurrum Wahid: (01:00:21)
Mr. Vice President, thank you. Thank you so much for being with us here today, but more importantly, for those remarks. It touches to the heart of our American Muslim community, where this community not only wants a seat at the table, but a real voice. You giving us that opportunity now, right at the start of this journey that we’re on together, means a lot to us. We are your partner. You can look to us to be there for you when you need it. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being with us today, sir.
VIce President Biden: (01:00:59)
Look forward to seeing you in person again. Thank you.
Khurrum Wahid: (01:01:03)
Thank you, sir. I want to now introduce to you our next speaker, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. I know he doesn’t need much introduction to this crowd, but I’m going to do it anyways because he’s such a great man. I want to have that opportunity. Not only is he a doctor, a physician who has been helping the fight against COVID like so many of our frontline Muslims, he’s a Rhodes Scholar. He was a professor at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, Director for the City of Detroit’s Health Department, helped rebuild the city’s Health Department, quite frankly, when Detroit went through that bankruptcy.
Khurrum Wahid: (01:01:55)
You all know, of course, he ran for Michigan governor of 2018, endorsed by Emgage PAC, probably. Since then, he’s been an ongoing, critical voice for progressive politics. You, I’m sure, have seen him on CNN as a great political commentator. He’s the host of a podcast, America Dissected, with Save America. He’s also served as a key member of Vice President Biden’s healthcare unity task force. With that, I introduce to you, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. Doctor, I think you may be muted. We can’t seem to hear you. Still not. Well, say something, and I can tell.
Nihad Awad: (01:03:07)
Can you guys hear me now?
Khurrum Wahid: (01:03:12)
There you are. Go for it, from the top. Thank you so much.
Nihad Awad: (01:03:15)
All right. I want to tell you that for me… First of all, just [foreign language 00:01:03:19] to Emgage and all the organizations who’ve made this possible, to Vice President Biden for joining us today and recognizing the criticality and the importance of our Muslim community, and to all of you for being a part of this. I do want to say how grateful I am to this community for its effort, its time, its resources, investing in Muslim candidates up and down the ballot.
Nihad Awad: (01:03:46)
Now I was asked to reflect a little bit about this particular moment. I want to frame it within a life change that my wife, Sarah, and I incurred just a couple of years ago, and that’s because we became parents. I’ve been struggling in this moment to get my mind around what it means to be a parent and what it is that a parent can actually control. I’ve come to the recognition that, really, what we can do is set the thermostat, right? We can decide based on the habits of mind, and of behavior, and of attitude, and of spirit, what “normal,” quote, unquote, is for our kids, how they think about the way that they’re supposed to engage the world. That becomes particularly hard when we are parenting against a world that is itself not normal. This moment right now is not normal.
Nihad Awad: (01:04:31)
My daughter was born in November of 2017. For the rest of her life, she will have been born while Donald Trump was president, a man who specifically went after people who pray like she and her family pray, arguing that despite the fact that she’s half Indian American, half Egyptian American, 100% American, that she doesn’t belong here though she was born and raised in Michigan. The fact that we have to consider right now is we have a responsibility to parent against that abnormal. I will say that in this moment, it means that we take abnormal action to right and justify this space that we’re in right now and create justice in this world.
Nihad Awad: (01:05:12)
You look at the way that this president has gone after Muslim Americans. You see it echoed across a number of groups, whether it was coming down that escalator and claiming that people of Mexican American heritage were rapists, whether it was saying that he wanted to call for an all- out ban of Muslims entering this country, whether it has been stoking the flames of racism against our black sisters and brothers in this country. This is a moment that has been fundamentally abnormal. We have an opportunity to be fully fighting for, in America, where our children not only know that they belong, but they recognize that they are centered not just in conversations among the Muslim American community, but in the broader community itself, that this is a place that dignifies them, and respects them, and uplifts them. That’s the work that we need to do.
Nihad Awad: (01:06:01)
Now the vice president talked about the Hadith from the prophet that said, “If one of you is to see injustice, you should seek to change it with your hands. If you can’t change it with your hands, then you should change it with your mouth and your tongue. If you can’t change it with your tongue, then you should at least change it in your heart.” There’s another verse in the Quran. [Foreign language 00:20:19]. Seek justice that is closest to consciousness of a lost power data. We, as Muslim Americans, not only because of the identity that we hold and the fact that that identity has been attacked by this president, but because of the responsibility we have to injustice against anyone, We have a responsibility right now to stand up for justice, and our kids need to see us doing it.
Nihad Awad: (01:06:41)
What does that mean? That means that we are willing to do the work over the next 100-plus days, to be talking about the challenges that people all over this country face, to work together to make commitments that we are going to show up on November 3rd, and elect Vice President Biden president of the United States of America, and then show up every single day for the next four years-plus fighting against the injustices that we see. We have that opportunity in front of us. We cannot miss it. It is a responsibility that we have to our faith, and it is a responsibility that we have to our children growing up in a moment right now where the very conscious, the very moral future of America, hangs in the balance. We have that choice. I know that I am joined by you, every other Muslim American in this country, recognizing that we have the opportunity and the responsibility to stand up for justice. We’re not going to miss that. [Foreign language 01:07:35]. I look forward to the panel coming after this. [Foreign language 00:21:41].
Iman Awad: (01:07:51)
Great. Thank you so much, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. We appreciate your remarks. I believe we were going to take a moment for Representative Andre Carson, but I don’t see him logged in yet. I believe we will carry on with our next panel. Good afternoon and welcome. Today we’re coming together for the Million Muslim Votes Summit as a community of faith to weigh in on what’s at stake for 2020. I’m Iman Awad, the National Legislative Director for Emgage Action.
Iman Awad: (01:08:19)
It’s my pleasure to introduce our esteemed panelists: Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, who we just had the pleasure of hearing from, a physician, progressive activist, and former gubernatorial candidate from Michigan, Councilman Basheer Jones, Cleveland Ohio’s first Muslim Councilman, and candidate for DC Council At-Large, Marcus Goodwin. We have a tight schedule, so we’re just going to jump straight into our questions. I’ll start with you, Councilman Jones. This year has brought many challenges to our country, and one weighing in the forefront for Americans is the current economic crisis we find ourselves in today. COVID-19 has impacted our healthcare systems and millions of American jobs. As we inch towards the November elections, as a leader…
Iman Awad: (01:09:03)
Jobs. As we inch towards the November elections, as a leader, what are your top priorities we should be focusing on when it comes to an economic recovery in the wake of this pandemic? Just as important, what are you looking for in leadership post November elections?
Basheer Jones: (01:09:18)
As-salamu alaykum. First and foremost, thank you so much for the invitation. And it’s a pleasure to have heard a vice president, Joe Biden, and to see the Muslims come together and begin to dictate what our goals are. Our brother, Imam, Malcolm X, he said, “If you are not at the table, you’re on the menu.” So this is a blessing. We’re no longer on the menu, this is a blessing.
Basheer Jones: (01:09:44)
Here in my city. One of the issues that I’ve been discussing is that with COVID-19, the foundation has crumbled. And now it’s all about building on top of a new foundation, creating a new foundation. And our economic goals should be centered around making sure that this new foundation is based upon diversity, is based upon opportunities.
Basheer Jones: (01:10:11)
When it comes to economics, we understand or come to politics, we understand that too many of the same people continue to get the opportunities and we need to see more women. We need to see more people of color. We need to see more new businesses, get those opportunities to have businesses and economic opportunities in our community, in our country, but definitely here in our city of Cleveland.
Basheer Jones: (01:10:35)
So for all of my elected officials across the country, as you begin, I don’t care if it’s a hand sanitizer company that wants to come in or a company that wants to come and spray down the buildings, make sure that these businesses that are now coming to the table, that there’s equity in a sense of who gets the opportunities that we are now in. Thank you.
Iman Awad: (01:11:05)
Great. Thank you so much, Councilman. Moving on to our next question for Dr. El-Sayed. Outside of the economic recovery, COVID-19 has really shed light on the current state of our healthcare systems. It exposed areas where we need true leadership and new policies to ensure all Americans have the care they need.
Iman Awad: (01:11:25)
As we weigh our choices for 2020, can you tell our viewers how your community has been impacted by this crisis, and what you would like to see evolve within our healthcare systems? Additionally, how can we encourage leadership to address the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color?
Nihad Awad: (01:11:43)
Yeah, before running for office, I was the Health Director for the city of Detroit. And I know my brothers, Marcus and Coucilman Basheer, they recognize that where the rubber hits the road on these large sometimes seemingly abstract issues, is in the heart of our urban communities and cities like Detroit and likely Cleveland and like DC. And that was nowhere more true than it was in Detroit, where early data showed that despite African-Americans being 14% of Michigan’s population, 40% of all deaths were to African-Americans in Michigan.
Nihad Awad: (01:12:23)
And that speaks to not the pathology of COVID-19 specifically, the way that COVID-19 makes you sick when it gets under your skin, but the social pathology that we’ve allowed to persist in our society well before COVID-19 was ever a thing. And it’s not just COVID, right? You take an outcome like infant mortality, black Americans suffer at two and a half times the rate, which is by the way, the same disparity that black Americans suffer COVID-19. So it’s not about what’s happening under the skin. It’s about what’s happening in society, above the skin. And that’s because in our society, we have allowed a set of racisms to permeate every single aspect of our society.
Nihad Awad: (01:13:03)
And you think about the conversation that we are now finally having, once again, following the murder of George Floyd. And that was about a public safety officer, somebody who had sworn to protect the public safety, thinking that it was within his rights to put his knee on the neck of a man for eight minutes and 46 seconds. And what it shows is that we’ve been excluding black folks from public in public safety for a long time.
Nihad Awad: (01:13:28)
But what COVID-19 shows us is that we’re excluding black folks from the public in public health as well. And then I go 50 miles North from where I am right now to Flint, Michigan. And you see that black folks have been excluded from the public in public utilities as well, where of course, poison water poison 9,000 children, 100,000 people.
Nihad Awad: (01:13:45)
And so we’ve got a lot of responsibility to be rethinking the social pathologies that leave us excluding black and brown Americans from too many aspects of what is considered public. And that starts with our political system and it also ends with our policies. And so it’s about changing the culture, which is happening, and then allowing our politics to translate that culture into policy in and on the ground.
Nihad Awad: (01:14:10)
And then finally, I’ll just say that part of the challenge here when it comes to health care is that we have allowed healthcare to be dominated by the same set of corporate interests that dominate almost every other aspect of our society, whether it’s the economic system, or it’s the political system, dominated by whether or not a few people can profiteer off of that system. And for healthcare, it’s been far too long.
Nihad Awad: (01:14:29)
You all well know I’ve been an advocate Medicare For All supporter. And that’s because I believe that we finally have to get corporate interests out of our healthcare. I was really pleasured and privileged to sit on Senator Sanders and Vice President Biden’s Unity healthcare task force. And I believe that while we haven’t gotten all the way there, and I won’t be satisfied until we get Medicare For All, we’ve made some real strides in making sure that the public option that the vice president ran on, is truly public. That it guarantees healthcare for everyone, that it is broad shouldered enough to take on this current crisis and can serve people, like the folks I got to take care of when I was at the city of Detroit.
Nihad Awad: (01:15:11)
We got a lot more work to do, but it starts with the right leadership to do it.
Iman Awad: (01:15:15)
Thank you so much, Dr. El-Sayed. Before we move on to our next question, we’re actually joined by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has been quite a champion for our community. And we’re so grateful to her leadership in Congress. I know today is a tough day with votes, so we wanted to give you an opportunity to address the crowd.
Ilhan Omar: (01:15:33)
Thank you so much Iman. Salamu alaykum to everyone, to the esteemed panel that you have and the one that I was supposed to be on. My apologies for not having more flexibility in our schedule today. As many of you know, we are in appropriations season and we are taking up the Defense Bill, which has been a priority bill for me in trying to advocate really for policies that help stop the amount of money we continue to invest in wars.
Ilhan Omar: (01:16:19)
So, it’s one of those policies that I am excited to go on the floor and debate as someone who’s been part of a generation that has known nothing but war, and as a refugee from a war-torn country, making sure that we have a peace full world is a priority of mine and for my constituents.
Ilhan Omar: (01:16:49)
But I am really excited for the opportunity for us to come together to uplift the voices of Muslim leadership, to uplift the voices of Muslim voters, for us to state really what our priorities look like as a community. Because oftentimes, people think of us and don’t think about the particular policies we care about. The public health crisis at this moment and the economic crisis that it’s created, is something that is impacting our communities, and as leaders, many of the constituents that we represent.
Ilhan Omar: (01:17:27)
And so this election cycle really is going to be about bringing voices to the table that feel the social and economic neglect of decades and generations, bringing voices to the table that feel maligned and marginalized in our society, bringing voices to the table that has been marching in the streets, asking for justice, bringing voices to the table that oftentimes don’t get a seat at that table. And I am excited about what it means for us to be laser focused on the issues that are going to bring us in into a better tomorrow.
Ilhan Omar: (01:18:11)
This election cycle is personal for me. On Wednesday, we take up the vote to repeal the Muslim ban. I’m the only member in Congress that actually comes from one of those countries that’s on the ban. And as many of you know, I recently lost my father to complications of COVID-19. And I know that so many people like him who die every single day in our country, who don’t get the opportunity to have family members come and be present at their funeral, come and be present at their bedside. And that really is because of this Muslim ban.
Ilhan Omar: (01:18:54)
And so I am excited for the opportunity for us to repeal, but also work in getting someone in the executive position who understands how important it is for us to create a society that connects families, a society that understands the value that we all have as immigrants in this country, and a society that uplifts all of our voices.
Ilhan Omar: (01:19:20)
And so thank you all for creating this opportunity for us to share on what’s important to us, and for us to have a conversation or how we energize our community in being excited about this election cycle and the possibilities that are out there as we fight for a more equal society. Thank you all.
Iman Awad: (01:19:40)
Thank you, Congresswoman, and our deepest sympathies to your family and prayers for your father. And thank you for your tireless leadership in Congress. At times, we know it can be very challenging and we appreciate that you’re always voicing what’s right, and being a true champion for our community. Thank you. With this, I’d like to wrap up with our final question for the panel. This will be open to all of our participants to weigh in, but I’d love to start with you, candidate from DC, Marcus Goodwin.
Iman Awad: (01:20:12)
Many people have shared the sentiment that America faces two pandemics: COVID-19 and racism. While this is true, we need to make very clear that the latter has been around since the relative inception of this country. America is facing a time where we need real meaningful change that recognizes the weight of this issue and creates a pathway to a more equitable society.
Iman Awad: (01:20:34)
What does 2020 mean to you, as far as what we need to do for an overhaul of our criminal justice system and addressing the real issue of police brutality?
Marcus Goodwin: (01:20:45)
Good afternoon, salamu alaykum. My name is Marcus Goodwin. I’m calling in from my hometown of Washington, DC, where I’m a proud of our African-American Muslim community. And I’m running for council, as you mentioned, on our November 3rd election, to be our first Muslim legislator in DC, and I’m running to be a force for change.
Marcus Goodwin: (01:21:04)
You talked about two crises that we’re facing, but really I think there are three crises. And I think the vice president brought those up. There’s a public health crisis, where African-Americans have been more profoundly impacted than any other community in the United States. In DC, 46% of the people that have been impacted by COVID-19 are African-Americans, but nearly 80% of the deaths have been African-Americans. So we’ve seen inequity in our public health system and that’s hurt us very uniquely.
Marcus Goodwin: (01:21:38)
We have an economic crisis. We have a racial wealth gap in our country that’s 10 to 1, but in DC, it’s 81 to 1. The median African-American household is $3,500 in net worth, and the median white family in our city has $284,000 in net worth. For us to address these issues, we need to have real profound, bold solutions to solve these problems.
Marcus Goodwin: (01:22:02)
And the final one that we’ve all been focused on, is the racial crisis. We’re in a period of reawakening, where we start to see the issues that have been inherit since the beginning of our country’s history. And I’m running to change those, because African-Americans have been traumatized by a legacy of slavery by Jim Crow, that’s still debilitating us to this day.
Marcus Goodwin: (01:22:24)
I’m civically engaged because Muslim Americans have been targeted with hate crimes by sick individuals and by our federal government, that’s put in place legislation like our Muslim ban. And I’m civically engaged, because many different ethnic and religious minorities have been marginalized by elected officials, who find it more politically convenient to turn their back, than to engage and activate their base.
Marcus Goodwin: (01:22:50)
So I’m encouraging people to turn out, to turn up and really get engaged, to vote and be a part of the million Muslims on November 3rd, because I’m inspired by the words of Dr. King, who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny and whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Marcus Goodwin: (01:23:15)
So I hope everyone will join us in this effort. I love the words that the vice president gave us because November 3rd is going to be the most transformative election for Muslims and for all Americans. And we’re here with a seat at the table to make a change.
Basheer Jones: (01:23:29)
You know what was said, we recognize as you studied the Quran, where Satan says to God, [foreign language 00:14:38]. He says, “I am better than him. I was created from fire. He was created from dirt, from mud.” So we recognize that the first racist was Satan. Satan stands on a foundation of racism.
Basheer Jones: (01:23:58)
And we see, and I say to everyone here, I don’t mind, I don’t mind fighting for Syria or Lebanon or fighting for Palestine, but you got to stand up with us for Chicago. You got to stand up with us for Cleveland. You got to stand up for Baltimore and black and brown people who are suffering across this country. And the reality is, W.E.B. Dubois, he talked about double consciousness being black and being American. But it’s people like me as a third generation Muslim, my grandparents are Muslim, my parents Muslim, I suffer from, or I deal with rather, the triple consciousness: being black, being American and being Muslim, proudly Muslim, and sometimes those worlds collide.
Basheer Jones: (01:24:46)
So people like Donald Trump, they’re going to do what they’re going to do. The question is not, is he going to change? The question is, when as a community, will we begin to change and recognize that we are all, we are all going through the same struggles? And it’s people like Dr. Sayed and Congresswoman Ilhan and Attorney General Keith Ellison and others, who have inspired me that I am in a council position, but next year, next election, I will be running as the mayor of city of Cleveland.
Basheer Jones: (01:25:20)
So it was people like this that inspired me, that motivated me. And I saw Dr. Sayed fighting for that governor’s position. And I see the struggle that Congresswoman Ilhan, or I see our brother Marcus Goodwin in DC, who’s getting ready to become the first Muslim counselor. It’s these type of things that inspire me.
Basheer Jones: (01:25:37)
And what I want to say to America is that, it’s a beautiful quote and we talked about this [inaudible 01:25:42] for the prophet. So as-salam and how it says, “Change it with your hand, change it with your mouth,” or at least some people have mistakenly said, “Hate it in your heart,” but you can change things with your heart. Your heart has the power to change the condition, change our condition. And it’s going to take good hearts to bring America to where it needs to be.
Basheer Jones: (01:26:02)
So, I’m excited about running for mayor in the city of Cleveland. I’m excited for fighting, fighting to make sure that Joe Biden becomes the next president, as we are here in Ohio, a very important state. And I look forward to working with every last one of you to make sure that we are victorious in this manner, and God bless you all.
Iman Awad: (01:26:22)
Thank you, Councilman.
Nihad Awad: (01:26:24)
Those are beautiful words from my brothers Marcus and Basheer. I really appreciate your fight, your leadership. Councilman, it goes without saying, let me know, [inaudible 01:26:33] will be out of this and Cleveland’s not too far. So you let me know what I can do. And brother Marcus, you let me know too, but probably over Zoom.
Nihad Awad: (01:26:42)
We’ve got an opportunity to think beyond the challenges that we face right now, to think around how they are connected in our society. I wrote about this idea of an epidemic of insecurity in a book I just published in March called, Healing Politics. And I want us to appreciate that you look at almost every system that we rely upon in our lives, whether it is healthcare, or housing, or infrastructure, or voting, or the economy itself. And in every single one, we are losing the means of a dignified life that we thought we could rely upon. And we’re losing them because we’ve sold them off to the highest bidder, to mega corporations who drive profits for a very small few and then fail to deliver the things that we’ve come to expect.
Nihad Awad: (01:27:27)
And we have a responsibility to step up and fight for the kind of society that dignifies all of us. All of us live in different parts of this country, and we need to get to a million plus voters if we’re going to change this election. But my hope is that it’s not just voting. You don’t just show up and then walk away after November, it’s that we need a million plus Muslim activists, advocates, leaders. All of us have a role to play, and we have to be thinking about the crises at large.
Nihad Awad: (01:27:59)
And as we think about this moment in healing that we need along the deep racial inequalities that we continue to suffer. We think about taking on this COVID-19 pandemic, let’s also remember that going back to normal, quote, unquote is not enough. We have to create a new normal that includes everybody. That is work that all of us have to be a part of. And so it means that we do the work to take back the White House, to elect Joe Biden president. But it also means that we do the work to be taking on all of the systems that have been failing too many people and creating these deep racial inequities and keeping us sick. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Iman Awad: (01:28:42)
Thank you so much, Dr. El-Sayed. Thank you, Councilman Basheer Jones, and to our dear candidate here in Washington, DC, Marcus Goodwin. I appreciate everything you said. I feel inspired. And with that, we are going to maneuver to our next panel, which will be spearheaded by my colleague, Mohamed Gula. Thank you.