WASHINGTON — American Muslims are watching in growing horror as Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz battle for the Republican presidential nomination, outdoing each other with provocative proposals that have included Muslim registries, immigration bans and fleets of police patrolling their neighborhoods.
With round tables, summit meetings and news releases falling on deaf ears, national advocacy groups are planning to fend off policies they consider hostile to Muslims with a more proactive strategy: driving up the Muslim vote.
Organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, the Islamic Circle of North America and the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations are encouraging mosques to turn themselves into voter registration centers before the November election so that Muslims can make their voices heard at the polls. Registration drives are expected to ramp up significantly in June, during Ramadan, when attendance at Islamic centers peaks.
“The fear and apprehension in the American Muslim community has never been at this level,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR. “The anti-Islamic tidal wave is spurring civic participation.”
Muslims tended to lean Republican as recently as 2000, but a backlash after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, along with the Middle East policies of the George W. Bush administration, has led to a gradual shift toward the Democrats. A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 70 percent of American Muslims identify with the Democratic Party, while just 11 percent consider themselves to be Republicans.
Although Muslims make up only about 1 percent of the population in the United States, civil rights groups have set a goal of registering a million new voters. Efforts will be focused on swing states such as Ohio and Florida that have large Muslim populations, potentially giving the small but united voting bloc the power to tilt close elections.