Posted on Friday, March 15, 2013
Syed Zaidi '12 was recently quoted in a MintPress article by fellow alum Martin Michaels '11. Michaels wrote about the announcement of the first Muslim Democratic Club of New York, a move aimed at "helping elect responsible Democrats to local office."
As former president of the Colleges Project Nur chapter, Zaidi was quoted, "New York City has one of the biggest Muslim communities in the country, and in the Western World. I think this is a major right step for Muslims wanting to get involved in politics."
Michaels details the history of Project Nur as well as the minimal representation those of the Muslim faith have in elected office.
"This is a litmus test on how well we are going to be able to come together. This is just the beginning," Zaidi is quoted.
Zaidi earned his B.A. in international relations from Hobart College. As a student, he was the recipient of the Chris Ventresca Memorial Award, the Deans Citizenship Award, Druid Award for Loyalty and the Martin Luther King Senior Leadership Award. He was active in a number of student organizations, including Hillel, Chimera, International Student Association, Hobart Student Government, College Democrats, and Model United Nations.
Michaels earned his B.A. in international relations cum laude with a minor in political science from Hobart College. As a student, he was on Dean's list, worked at WHWS-FM, and was a member of the Hobart Student Government, Hillel, Project Nur, and the International Student Association.
The full article follows.
NYC Muslim Democratic Committee Forms, Boosting Political Representation
Martin Michaels • March 12, 2013
(MintPress) - On March 14, Muslim-American leaders in New York City will launch the first Muslim Democratic Club of New York, a "New York City based organization of American Muslims dedicated to helping elect responsible Democrats to local office." The group has been hailed by supporters as an important step forward politically for the nearly 70,000 Muslim residents living in New York City alone.
"New York City has one of the biggest Muslim communities in the country, and in the Western World. I think this is a major right step for Muslims wanting to get involved in politics," said Syed Zaidi, former president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges' Project Nur chapter to Mint Press News.
Project Nur was organized after American Muslim residents of New York City grew disgruntled with what many see as discriminatory policies promoted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office after the 9/11 attacks. According to internal police documents released February 2012, the New York Police Department (NYPD) conducted widespread surveillance operations by collecting the license plates of worshippers attending prayer at mosques within the city and cataloged sermons through a network of informants.
Fastest growing religion in the U.S. - disenfranchised by politics
According to U.S. census data, New York City has one of the largest Muslim populations with approximately 69,985 as of 2010. And across the country, Muslim communities have been growing by leaps and bounds. According to 2010 U.S. Religion Census shows Islam was the fastest growing religion in America in the last 10 years, with 2.6 million living in the United States in 2010, up from 1 million in 2000.
Despite the growth in Muslim communities in the New York metropolitan area, few Muslim politicians have successfully won office in local, state and national elections.
There are just two Muslim representatives in the entire U.S. Congress - Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.).
Organizers are hoping to change this trend by creating a strong advocacy for Muslim communities in New York. "We know the only way to show our political power is through votes and money, said Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American from Brooklyn helping to organize the campaign.
"We needed a partisan arm for the community to do this work outside of our 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have so many American Muslim professionals in the finance, medicine, law and other sects that we can engage."
"We as a community have found it difficult politically to create platforms to become elected. There has only been one Muslim council member in NYC. On top of that there has only been two Muslims in Congress," adds Zaidi, a resident of Queens New York.
America against Muslims
Mobilizing the Muslim American community has been a challenge after the 9/11 attacks, given increased government surveillance. Many policy makers have erroneously labeled Muslim Americans in elected positions as being a "fifth column" or working for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) sent letters to the inspectors of various security agencies in 2012, warning that they may be infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political party active in several Middle Eastern countries.
Huma Abedin, a top aide to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was named personally as having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood - an empty accusation that remains unproven.
"This is a litmus test on how well we are going to be able to come together. This is just the beginning," Zaidi said.