Councilor calls for American Muslims to run for office
Cambridge’s first Muslim city councilor has issued a nationwide “open call” to fellow American Muslims to run for public office and change the narrative in their local communities.
Councilor Nadeem Mazen is offering to train American Muslim community leaders, coordinate workshops, and organize civic education programs through his nonprofit Jetpac Inc. — or the Justice, Education, and Technology Policy Advocacy Center.
“Muslims are unbelievably underrepresented in elected office,’’ Mazen said. “Having Muslims in elected office, the way I am, can change the narrative from being on the defensive [in the media] . . . to the work that we actually do around issues such as affordable housing.”
The “open call’’ was issued last week on the heels of President Trump’s controversial immigration order that targets several Muslim-dominated countries. Already some Muslims, responding to anti-immigration sentiments, are now eyeing elected office. One includes Roxbury activist Deeqo Jibril, a Muslim refugee from Somalia, who said she will run for Boston City Council.
Since Mazen put out the call, he said, more than 100 Muslims nationwide have expressed interest in training through his nonprofit.
Mazen said his appeal was not a direct response to Trump’s campaign rhetoric, his election to the presidency, or his recent executive orders.
“Trump is the outcome of a 20-year process, and we are actually responding to that process,” Mazen said in an interview.
“We are responding to many Americans . . . who feel they are being demonized and villainized. We are not necessarily responding to Trump; we are responding to the environment that allows Trump to come about.”
The nonprofit was founded by Mazen and his former deputy campaign manager, Shaun Kennedy, after Mazen’s successful election to Cambridge’s city council in 2013. Its mission is to train American Muslims and other underrepresented minorities who are already active in community service and seeking a path to elected office, the councilor said.
They have worked with prospective Muslim Democratic state committee members, Democratic National Convention delegates, and more than 15 aspiring candidates for office in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and California, the councilor said in a statement.
Because of its nonprofit status, Jetpac is barred from participating in political campaigns, but it can provide education and training.
“Jetpac is not interested in what party you want to run for, or for what office — we want to make sure you’re ready to win before you even declare your candidacy,” Kennedy said in the statement.
Mazen won his 2013 campaign by a margin of just six votes. Two years later, he was the top vote-getter on the Cambridge council.