Emerge Leadership

Khurrum Wahid is a criminal defense attorney based in South Florida. A devoted advocate for human and civil rights, Khurrum has fought tirelessly to protect civil liberties from unwarranted government encroachment and to educate the public about the importance of safeguarding our constitutional protections, especially in times that try our nation’s conscience.

Khurrum has testified on civil rights issues several times before various government organizations, including twice before the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He frequently is invited to speak at conferences, community meetings, and professional forums. Before entering private practice, Khurrum served several years as a Senior Trial Attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. Prior to working at NDS, Khurrum gained extensive trial experience as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami, Florida. Khurrum received his B.A. from the University of Toronto and his J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California. Khurrum is also a member of professional organizations such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Florida Muslim Bar Association.

Khurrum is a founding member and current Vice-Chair of EMERGE USA and also serves on the board of the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews (MCCJ), the Miami Council for International Visitors, and Voices for Children Broward County.

A.J. Durrani is a senior project manager for Shell Oil in Houston, Texas. He created an organization named CONAC which produced over 26 delegates from the Muslim community in the 2004 Presidential election for the Democrat party. CONAC merged with CVA Foundation in 2009.

Nauman Abbasi is a Businessman based in South Florida. He is also the President of Public Relations for The Islamic Foundation of South Florida since 2008. He has been actively working with the youth of South Florida on mobilizing them for various causes such as preventing a garbage dump from being zoned next to a mosque in Sunrise Florida, and he has also organized various interfaith events for The Muslim Community in South Florida.

Zeba Khan was the founder of Muslim Americans for Obama in 2008, which was an online national grassroots movement that garnered the attention of the Presidential candidate himself. Currently Zeba is the Strategic Initiatives Director at the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, a nonprofit that aims to help U.S.-affiliated Iraqis successfully resettle to the U.S. and a virtual campaign manager with Ashoka’s Youth Venture, an incubator for young social entrepreneurs. A former Fulbright Scholar, Zeba holds a joint MA/BA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies and a MALD from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy.

Arif Ghafur is a Professional Engineer by trade but he is also an active community organizer in Houston. He is involved in local community efforts to enfranchise American Muslims into the political process. Along with several concerned men and women initiated a political grassroots effort Houston which focuses on educating the community on the US political process known as CONAC. CONAC merged with CVA Foundation in 2009.

NY Times: Muslims May Swing Vote

Since then, the animosity against Muslims has only intensified. Republican presidential hopefuls Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich frequently warned that Muslims were attempting to take over the government and impose Shariah law, using “stealth Jihad,” as Gingrich put it in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute late last year.

The problem for the United States, the former speaker of the house argued, is not primarily terrorism; it is Shariah — “the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth.” Rick Santorum, not one to shy away from the subject, continues to conflate Muslims with radical Islamists. He has often warned audiences of the dangers of losing the war to “radical Islam,” even suggesting in a 2007 speech at the National Academic Freedom Conference that the American response to the threat should be to “educate, engage, evangelize and eradicate.”

This type of anti-Muslim rhetoric is deployed by some candidates in an apparent attempt to tap into hostility among the voters who make up the base of the party. In a sense, this approach is validated by recent polls suggesting that Republicans are more likely to have anti-Muslim sentiments. The political scientists Michael Tesler and David Sears wrote in their 2010 book, “Obama’s Race,” that feelings about Muslims are a strong predictor about feelings about Obama. They found that “general election vote choice in 2008 was more heavily influenced by feelings about Muslims than it was in either 2004 voting or in McCain-Clinton trial heats.” As we get closer to the November election, the most likely Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, will have to balance between pandering to voters on the far right of his party, some of whom are already wary of him, and more moderate voters.

While an anti-Muslim strategy may have worked in the past, it is risky because many agree that the outcome of the 2012 presidential election will probably be determined in no more than twelve states. These are the same states where minority groups, including American Muslims, are likely to play a decisive role. A report released this week by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, where I am the director of research, suggests that this community is becoming an increasingly important player in electoral politics and might well play a surprisingly important role in this year’s election.

Although it is true that American Muslims constitute a small percentage of the national population, they are concentrated in key swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida. Despite being very diverse and far from monolithic, this constituency is growing faster than any other religious community and has become increasingly visible and sophisticated in its political engagement. Republicans who found the Muslim community an easy target in the primaries may find themselves in trouble in the states that may determine the winner of the election.

Our report examined a decade’s worth of data on American Muslim political attitudes and includes a case study of Florida, which remains a perennial tossup. In addition to the razor-thin margin in 2000, the state’s 2004 and 2008 elections were settled by less than 2% of the vote. In 2000, a few hundred votes decided the election; an estimated 60,000 Muslims in Florida voted for Bush. Florida’s Muslim population, which has been growing since the 1980s, is now estimated by some to include 124,000 registered voters. No campaigner can afford to disregard them.

The rhetorical animosity from Republican presidential candidates, coupled with the rise of Islamophobia since 9/11, has mobilized the Muslim community to engage politically. An Emerge USA poll taken during the 2010 midterm elections found that more than 60% of registered Muslim voters in Florida were likely to vote. Polls also suggest that two out of three Muslims have a strong desire for political unity and feel that they should vote as a bloc for a presidential candidate.

It seems unlikely now, but Republicans long did a good job of courting Muslim voters, including in the 2000 election when George W. Bush reached out to the community. Al Gore, on the other hand, took Muslims for granted, to his detriment. Even in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, President Bush reached out to the community and condemned attacks against Muslims, making it clear that the terrorist attacks did not represent Islam or the views of American Muslim citizens. Yet specific policies, including the passing of the Patriot Act and the decision to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, caused many Muslims to shift away from the Republican Party.

Arab-American and South Asian-American Muslims, who initially supported Bush in 2000, switched overwhelmingly to the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, in 2004. Democrats further capitalized on this support with Obama’s candidacy in 2008. President Obama, for his part, has not managed to do much better in engaging the Muslim community, never finding it politically convenient to do so and consistently distancing himself.

The growing rhetorical invocation of Islam as a scare tactic to gain votes may work in some parts of the country, but candidates could pay dearly in critical battleground states. As a first step, politicians from both parties should reach out to the American Muslim community instead of ignoring, dismissing or maligning its members. Fueling animosity against Muslims as a tactic to court votes is a risky venture. The strategy is short sighted; it could easily backfire; and in a pluralistic society that prides itself on tolerance and religious freedom, encouraging this type of animosity towards a particular group is un-American.

Farid Senzai is assistant professor of political science at Santa Clara University and director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.


Emerge USA Training at ISNA East Zone Conference

Event date:January 08, 2011 04:30 PM
Event end date:January 08, 2011 05:45 PM
Individual Price:Free
Join Emerge for our training at the ISNA East Zone Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL at the Broward County Convention Center located at 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316.  The session will focus on how to best communicate with your elected officials.

Annual Fundraising Banquet:

Event date:May 07, 2011 06:30 PM
Event end date:May 07, 2011 09:30 PM
Individual Price:$40.00
Join us on May 7, 2011 for our annual fundraising banquet.  The theme of the event will be, “A Call for Civility: Moderating Politics to Combat Islamophobia” and our keynote speaker for the event will be former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.  Tickets are $35 per person.

Emerge 2012 Annual Banquet: Investing in Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

Event date:April 21, 2012 07:00 PM
Individual Price:$50.00

Emerge USA will be holding its annual banquet on April 21, 2012 at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale North.  The theme of the banquet is “Investing in Tomorrow’s Leaders Today” with Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin of Teaneck, NJ and Comedian Ahmed Ahmed.  Registration is at 7pm and doors open at 7:30pm.  Hallal dinner will be served and childcare will be

Emerge 2012 Annual Banquet: Investing in Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (Student Price)

Event date:April 21, 2012 07:00 PM
Individual Price:$35.00

Emerge USA will be holding its annual banquet on April 21, 2012 at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale North.  The theme of the banquet is “Investing in Tomorrow’s Leaders Today” with Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin of Teaneck, NJ and comedian Ahmed Ahmed.  Registration is at 7pm and doors open at 7:30pm.  Hallal dinner will be served and childcare will be available.

Emerging Data

EMERGE has created a database of under-represented ethnic communities in Florida with a focus on registered voters from the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian American communities.

EMERGE communicates with this database on a regular basis through live and automated polling and collects data on voter trends and issues that drive these communities to the polls.EMERGE Data
Click here to see where Florida’s Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities reside.This data is then presented to elected officials and candidates to help them better understand these communities.  Emerge leadership travels around the state and uses this data to present information about the Muslim, Arab and South Asian American communities to local elected officials.  The content of these presentations includes where these communities are from, the issues that are important to them and mechanisms to outreach and communicate with these communities.