Last December, video showed a woman in Alameda County harassing a group of praying Muslims, screaming that they were "murderers." Rasheed Albeshari, who posted footage of the attack, wrote at the time, "I never thought this would ever happen to me here." While Muslims represent just one percent of the population of the US overall, here in the Bay Area, there were at least 250,000 Muslims in 2010, one of the largest concentrated populations in the country.
The timing of the harassment was not coincidental, proposes a Georgetown University study titled “When Islamophobia Turns Violent: The 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections." According to that study's findings, "As [Donald Trump] called for shutting down mosques in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California in December 2015, anti-Muslim attacks initially tripled with nearly half of those attacks directed against mosques."
But anti-Muslim rhetoric could backfire, the New York Times writes in a story reported from Oakland. A national group called the US Council of Muslim Organizations has announced their intention to register one million Muslim voters. "When your existence in society is in danger, you try to mobilize your community," the council's secretary general Oussama Jammal told the Times. “You have to be part of the entire society.” Here in California, that means registering Muslims in time not just for the November election, but the June 7 primary as well.
“So many family and community members are really, really scared,” Jehan Hakim tells the paper. In addition to serving as California president of the American Association of Yemeni Students and Professionals, she organizes voter registration drives at Oakland.
Hakim also participates in a local campaign called “Meet a Muslim,” which the Chronicle profiled in February. “I thought, how do I reach out to ordinary people on the street... who want to meet a Muslim face-to-face and be able to ask any question without being judged or intimidated?” Moina Shaiq, a 56-year-old mother of four in Fremont, told the Chronicle. “I have heard this time and time again, where people say that they have never met a Muslim.”
Well, if you haven't met a Muslim, the chances that you'll run into one at the polls next week is only getting higher.