Walking the Talk Into 2021

BY: MPAC’s D.C. Bureau

Iman Ali, Adam Beddawi, M Baqir Mohie El-Deen, Prema Rahman

As we enter 2021, the idea of leaving 2020 in the dustbin of history is alluring. While a hellish year, it is important to reflect on all that made 2020 a pivotal moment in the history of our nation and faith community. This past year, we persevered through a pandemic, engaged in the American political process to record degrees, and rallied popular support and organizational resources toward the fight for racial justice. But we also endured over 340,000 COVID-related deaths, the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, and over 100,000 small business closures, the vast majority of which are permanent. These catastrophic consequences were not necessary parts of post-pandemic life. From the onset of the pandemic, the Trump administration and HHS response to the crisis had been woefully slow and inadequate. Health care workers nationwide scrambled to put together rudimentary PPE to combat the worst public health crisis of our lifetime while our government was stuck deliberating emergency spending. Since then, the government has passed three legislative responses to the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, but the American people continue to suffer.

After an absolutely chaotic past four years, we successfully voted out President Trump, and a multicultural, multi-ethnic coalition elected the first African-American, South Asian, female Vice President, who is also the child of immigrants, in our nation’s history. With all of the work MPAC does toward inclusion at every level of government, media, and civil society, this was a huge step forward and cause for celebration. We are hopeful about the prospects of engagement with the Biden-Harris administration. Joe Biden’s pledge to repeal the Muslim Ban on Day One of his term may reflect an administration committed to working with us and not against us. We look forward to working in collaboration with other Muslim civic organizations to ensure that the rights of American Muslims are restored and upheld.

With the Biden administration, we certainly have cause for hope; but we cannot let our guard down just yet. 2020 exposed some of the greatest inequalities and insecurities of our country. We cannot sweep those issues under the rug while ushering in the new year. It is now more apparent than ever that we the American people need a concerted government effort to guarantee human security, whereby we can all live free from fear and want. Over the course of the next four years, MPAC is committed to ending systemic racism, pushing for police reform, honoring our nation’s commitment to religious freedom, and comprehensively reforming our nation’s immigration policy. We still have a lot of work to do and MPAC is committed to that work.

As a policy organization, we are taking these reflections with us into the year of work that is to come. In many respects, this year will be a continuation of our work from this past year, which went toward preparing our community for the 2020 elections, initiating a legislative response to the issues of human security, and drafting in-depth policy analyses of the day’s events. The President-elect and his cabinet have promised to restore the soul of this nation, Build Back Better, and rectify the last four years of divisive nationalism. We are among the communities that the Biden campaign relied upon in order to win office. This past year of work, during a global pandemic and economic depression no less, comprise building blocks for our collective future. We made clear the place of American Muslims in the American social fabric, and now we expect to have the ear of our partners and stakeholders in government and federal agencies on our issues and recommendations. We are pleased to have an administration that appears accessible and amenable to our community’s concerns, and we are prepared to hold them to account.

Their promises are not checks we can cash, but we will capitalize on the fact that both parties need American Muslims to win and maintain control of the Legislative Branch. You trust MPAC to do this work, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

We must choose between passive or active participation in the political process that is to come. Active participation looks like building power based on our shared values. “Tale of Two Futures” also analyzes parties in order to determine just how we should prioritize our political actions. Case in point: our Campaign for Human Security, which tries to unite civil society groups and elected officials around a people-centered approach to national security. In the years to come, our collective actions must reflect the urgent need to build power within the community and among our allies.

If we choose active participation, we can maximize the political capacity of our American Muslim community — the one percent, whose commitment to faith can be a shining example for the 99 percent. If we do, then 2021 will be the next step toward a lasting American pluralism, one that respects and honors the contributions and unique differences of American Muslims.

Our fight continues, and it won’t stop until we deliver for you an American pluralism for all.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council improves public understanding and policies that impact American Muslims by engaging our government, media and communities.