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When Democrats Use Muslims As Election Props—And Lose

A 19 year-old medical student and grassroots organizer’s account of Jon Ossoff’s campaign stop at an Islamic community center just north of Atlanta exemplifies why Democrats lose.

Last week, Ossoff lost to Karen Handel in a race for Georgia’s sixth congressional district. It was the most expensive House race in United States history. It was yet another extortionate special election defeat for the Democratic Party.

Suhaib Abaza was unaware Ossoff would be at the Islamic center, but upon arrival on June 16, he noticed the Ossoff stickers on the clothes of “quite a few mosque-goers” that he claimed “almost never attend this mosque.”

While these specific congregants are involved in the Atlanta Muslim community, their politics “conveniently don’t advance past lukewarm status-quo affirming liberalism, assimilationist politics predicated on aligning themselves favorably with state apparatuses, out of both fear and unprincipled careerism,” Abaza added.

This same Islamic center previously welcomed the Justice Department months prior, which gave way to the state’s so-called “community outreach” program.

According to Abaza, the program established government proximity to mosques “for the purpose of creating informants, surveilling, and entrapping youth.” It was evident officials linked to the program “had a hand in informing Ossoff’s mosque visit,” with a few even mentioning that they canvassed and volunteered for his campaign.

During the visit, Ossoff sat in a chair towards the back along with his bodyguards and media crew. Abaza and other congregants sat on the floor in front of Ossoff. The imam gave a lecture, which was an introduction to Islam “clearly catered to the special visitor.”

“The entire mosque was abuzz, in excitement and anticipation for Jon Ossoff (the professional camera crew moving throughout the mosque didn’t help),” Abaza recounted. “After the lecture, they hurried back to the tent that Ossoff’s campaign had set up on the propert. He was immediately swarmed.”

Abaza called the moment perfect for the campaign, “as the excitement of the Muslim congregation was visible and captured on camera.” Ossoff was then given an opportunity to speak but only delivered a short statement, with an empty point made about “unity” in the face of President Donald Trump.

“Basically he was trying to tell us that if we disliked Trump, if we didn’t want the madness to continue, it was our duty to vote for Jon Ossoff,” Abaza said.

Ossoff apparently made zero promises to Muslims. Nor did he attempt the bare minimum by explaining his policies.

Abaza insisted Ossoff “basically said that he appreciated the support Muslims gave him and that he believed we could help him win, and in turn, we’d defeat ‘them.'”

Ossoff didn’t ask congregants about their concerns nor did he make room for questions.

Instead, Ossoff tokenized Muslim attendees, ending a vacuous statement by telling attendees where to stand to take pictures with him. He indicated there was five minutes for pictures before the campaign team had to leave.

Abaza noted, “The only point Ossoff had to add to this was that we should try to have our phones out and ready for our picture with him so that he could expedite the process. It was a mix of accepted celebrity-dom and entitlement to our votes.”

It is critically important to examine the Democrats’ sense of entitlement, particularly in a district regarded as a Republican stronghold.

Abaza argued Democrats live for the sensationalist tokenization, and a kind of radical aesthetic that can be utilized in order to funnel votes and support “for politics which ultimately hurt the same people they’re attempting to pander to.”

“This is the trademark of neoliberalism,” Abaza asserted. “It aims to give a ‘diverse’ face to the status quo so as to quell the pressure for truly radical change.”

Muslim Americans, “especially non-black immigrant Muslims post-9/11”, have outdone themselves to show wider American society that they can assimilate “into the ugly hierarchy, which most times, is the reason for their displacement to begin with,” Abaza additionally argued.

Ossoff and other Democrats use Muslims as vote fodder, while concurrently backing policies that target Muslims locally and abroad. And Abaza continued, “From heightened drone warfare programs and imperial ventures in Muslim countries under Democratic administrations to support for federal ‘anti-terrorism; initiatives, which serve as vessels of surveillance, persecution, and entrapment in Muslim communities, the Democrats have a track record of supporting it all.”

“We span across class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity so it’s very telling which ‘Muslim community’ it is that you approach,” Abaza declared.

There is a mosque roughly five minutes from Turner Field in Atlanta. Turner Field was the subject of public outcry, mass action, and a two month campout directly in front of the stadium. It was part of a mobilization for a community benefits agreement, which ensures that black and brown housing and infrastructure will not be displaced.

The mosque, with a majority of black congregants, is a part of the Turner Field coalition against gentrification. “You won’t find politicians, Republican or Democrat, making any sort of effort to ‘hear out’ that Muslim community.”

Ossoff, a young Democrat, managed to raised a staggering $23.6 million to Handel’s $4.5 million. Much energy and resources were put into the district’s special election and yet the loss was dismissed as “inevitable” by numerous Democrats.

If history is any example, there will be very few lessons learned by the Democratic Party from Ossoff’s campaign. Their message will likely remain ambiguous, dominated by conspiratorial and vacuous anti-Trump statements, devoid of attention to policy. Their emotional blackmail of marginalized communities will endure.

Democrats will insist that through these woeful tactics, they persisted.

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Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and journalist, whose work can be found at Roqchams.com.