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DNC Chair Tom Perez listens to Metro-Detroit Muslim community leaders and activists

Malak Silmi

As a part of the Democratic National Committee’s Muslim Listening Tour, DNC Chairperson Tom Perez met with about 30 Muslim politicians, organizers, and leaders on Wednesday to discuss “The State of Muslims in Michigan” at Muslim Center Detroit.

Perez told attendees that he wants to hear where the DNC has fallen short and what they’ve been doing well when it comes to their relationship with Muslim communities.

“What I hope to accomplish today is to listen and to learn more. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Perez said.

Hassan Sheikh, Deputy Director of Economic and Community Development at the City of Dearborn, acknowledged and thanked Perez for coming to the Muslim communities early, and not next October, right before the presidential election.

“We thank you for reaching out and having this conversation as early as you’re having it, so we have some time to strategize,” Sheikh said.

Those present raised concerns about the absence of recognition and resources toward Democratic Muslim organizers and candidates.

Seydi Sarr, executive director of African Bureau of Immigration & Social Affairs, said she ran for state representative in the eighth district.

“When I ran as a democrat, the democratic party didn’t have anything to do with me. I do have an accent and I am an immigrant, and I’m a woman from Senegal,” she said.

Credit Malak Silmi
Seydi Sarr sharing her experiences with DNC Chair Tom Perez at Muslim Center Detroit.

Sarr said the DNC needs to allocate more resources to those in marginalized and immigrant communities.

“There was no support at all, here in Michigan, for a candidate who looks like me,” she said.

Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) was present and echoed similar concerns of the lack of support by the DNC for Muslim politicians and congressmen.

“We raise money, but we don’t get the follow through,” she said.

She mentioned the congressmen currently co-sponsoring the repeal of the Muslim ban bill.

“That’s an easy win for us, Tom. Help me, help all of us, get the [bill] out of the house,” Tlaib said.

Perez said he dreams of a day where a Muslim being elected to office is a common occurrence and doesn’t make headlines.

“We have 16 months to make sure we are building the relationship that is necessary for us to ensure that not only is there a seat at the table, but that there’s a megaphone, [and] to ensure that we’re encouraging more people to run [for office],” Perez said.

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