Muslim Orgs Help Develop Toolkit to Enhance Diversity in Government

Published Mon, Nov 21, 2022 7:01 PM

Since 2016, voter registration among American Muslims increased from 60% to 81% by 2022. As the Muslim population continues to rise, its hoped this will spur better representation in government and the electoral system more generally. 


Muslim Americans in Public Service (MAPS) and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) have partnered to compile a toolkit with information about Muslims and Islam for government officials and federal institutions, which was launched last month. 


“The Toolkit was inspired by the needs of MAPS’ national members, and conceived in light of the welcome push by the Biden Administration to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility at the Federal level--especially after the previous administration had restricted much of the DEIA agenda,” said MAPS Chair, Ahmad Maaty.


MAPS approached ISPU with the idea to create a resource that would benefit their members but also the wider Muslim community. The toolkit is not only for government administrators, but employers as well to have a better understanding of their Muslim employees. 


“The majority of Americans say they do not know a Muslim and for many, their knowledge of Muslims is informed by media representations,” said ISPU Outreach & Partnerships Manager, Petra Alsoofy. “This toolkit is intended to give government leaders a better understanding of American Muslims, the challenges they face and their contributions to this nation. It is also an important tool for American Muslims themselves to use and share with their local, state, and federal agencies.”  


The government administrators' toolkit was released in October of this year and was pieced together by leaders in the Muslim community with American Muslims in mind. 


It followed the June 2021, executive order by President Biden to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the Federal workplace. 


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was called to “issue guidance and serve as a resource and repository for best practices for agencies to develop or enhance existing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training programs” that can identify and help prevent “bias against underserved communities.” 


“While the community of Muslim Americans serving all levels and branches of government was certainly underserved and underrepresented, MAPS realized that there was also a lack of awareness of this community and finding information and data was often cumbersome and not user friendly--particularly beyond the very basics,” said Maaty. 


The toolkit, which contains individual narratives, definition boxes, graphics and flow charts, aims to clarify misconceptions, provide details on personal and civic beliefs and cover key definitions, MAPS decided to bring in research specialists from ISPU. 


“As MAPS is a national network and member organization, it is not a research organization and lacks decades of experience in developing reports, research, and toolkits on the American Muslim community that ISPU has,” said Maaty. 


Maaty and others also recognize the increased profile of Muslims in the U.S. in terms of civic and electoral engagement. In 2020, the national American Muslim civic engagement organization Emgage successfully helped a million muslim voters to register and vote with its “Million Muslims Vote” campaign in twelve states. 


According to Emgage, as of November 1, 2022, more than 160,000 Muslims had voted early or absentee. The numbers come from eight states, with the most from Texas, Florida, Michigan and Virginia. 


Muslim representation within the political system is also increasing nationwide with several elected officials who are breaking barriers and leaving their mark for the history books. 


However, only four Muslims have been elected to Congress in the county’s history, while no Muslims have been elected to the Senate. 



Pictured: Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ghazala Hashmi, Farrah Khan

It was back in 2008, that Michigan elected its first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Michigan Legislature, Rashida Tlaib. Congresswoman Tlaib was then elected to represent the state’s 13th congressional district. She was joined by Ilhan Omar who became the first Somali-American, the first naturalized citizen from Africa, and the first non-white woman elected from Minnesota to serve in Congress. They were both preceded by Muslim Congressman, Andre Carson and Keith Ellison. 



On a  state level, Senator Ghazala Hashmi became the first Muslim and the first South Asian American to serve in the Virginia Senate when she was elected in 2019. 


Two years ago in Irvine, California, Farrah Khan was elected Mayor, breaking the record for the highest number of votes received in the city’s history. She became the first woman of color to hold office and the first Muslim woman to represent a large U.S. city. 



And this year the Red state of Texas has just made history with the election of two Muslim Democrats to the Texas House of Representatives. Dr. Suleman Lalani is set to represent Fort Bend County and former city councilman Salman Bhojani is serving in Tarrant County.