About 60 activists and the Democratic mayoral candidates celebrated the launch of New York City's first Muslim Democratic Club Thursday evening.
City Comptroller John Liu, and Sal Albanese, a former Democratic Councilman from Bay Ridge, were the only two candidates to attend the event. Representatives for New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were also in attendance.
Robert Jackson of Harlem, the only Muslim member on the New York City Council, spoke to the crowd. So did Zead Ramadan, who is also Muslim and is one of the candidates running this year to replace Jackson.
"The crowd was mostly young professionals in their late 20s and early 30s. The men wore suits, and some of the women wore hajibs covering their hair," Azi Paybarah reported.
New York 1 News sent a camerawoman to film the speeches. Ross Barkan, covering the event for the Observer, was there early. Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post was in attendance, as were two Columbia University journalism students. Among the oldest people in attendance were Mohammad Farrukh, 41, of the Pakistani Post, and Mohsin Zaheer, 42, editor of Sada-e-Pakistan, a Pakistani-American newspaper distributed throughout the metropolitan area.
The crowd of attendees was, in large part, second-generation Americans of Southeast Asian and Arab descent.
Ali Nahmi and Linda Sarsour, the founders of the club have said they're hoping to recruit members from various communities to be a strong voice for domestic issues concerning the Muslim community.
"We're a domestic policies, local issues, you know our top two issues. Our top two issues are NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community. We want candidates to take that straight on and we also want to talk about Muslim school holidays: access to education and civll right issues. So, those are our main issues," Sarsour told Azi Paybarah.
Sarsour asserted that the club will not be seeking a more direct challenge to the Democratic Party's establishment over foreign policy in the Middle East.
"It's not every Muslim's issue," Sarsour said. "This is not a Palestinian club, or an Arab club. This is a Muslim club," and "none of these candidates will have influence on foreign policy. It makes no sense for us to even bring it up when they have influence on foreign policy."
"They have no influence. They're not federal candidates, they're not running for president of the United States. We want to avoid it because it's not the Muslim communities issue. We don't want to impose that issue on anyone and no one has influence over that issue."
But that will change next year, with the arrival of the mid-term Congressional elections. "By that time," Sarsour told Azi, "we have built the membership and the membership has a say, 'Do we want to talk about Palestine? Do we want to talk about Pakistan?' If they choose to to that, then we go with the membership."