(RNS) — Muslim leaders from key swing states are urging Muslim voters not to support President Biden in the 2024 presidential election in response to his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.
“American Muslims just want nothing to do with Biden anymore, and they’re willing to suck it up for four years,” said Jaylani Hussein, a member of the coalition.
The movement, known as #AbandonBiden, is a response to the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s retaliatory strikes in the Gaza Strip and its refusal to advocate for a cease-fire.
Since the Hamas terrorist attacks that killed 1,200 on Oct. 7, 17,177 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to data from Gaza’s health ministry.
Last Saturday, #AbandonBiden coalition members held a press conference in Dearborn, Michigan, to launch the campaign. Leaders from Minnesota, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and other swing states all vowed to deter Muslim voters from voting for President Biden in the upcoming election.
“We will make sure that our votes are counted, and Muslim Pennsylvanians are not siding with any elected officials that are siding with genocide,” said Rabiul Chowdhury, a Pennsylvanian representative of the movement, during the press conference.
Many Muslim leaders regret mobilizing Muslim voters in favor of Biden’s victory during the 2020 election, Hussein told Religion News Service. During the last election, Muslim Americans were critical in helping Biden secure key swing states.
For example, in Michigan, home to the country’s largest Muslim population, Biden won by 154,188 votes. Muslim voters also played a key role in his victory in Arizona, where he won with 49.4% of the vote, and in Georgia, where he won with 49.5%.
In the last presidential elections, Muslim voters’ participation significantly increased from 60% in 2016 to 78% in 2020, according to the Dearborn, Michigan-based Institute for Social Policy.
In 2020, 64% of Muslim voters supported Biden, and according to a Pew Research Center poll, 62% of Muslim Americans identify as Democrats.
Nationwide, there are about 3.45 million Muslims in the United States, including more than 2 million adults, according to Pew Research.
However, since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on Oct. 7, support for President Biden has drastically fallen among Arab Americans. According to an October 2023 Arab American Institute poll, support for President Biden has fallen to 17%, against 59% in 2020.
The poll found that 68% of Arab Americans were opposed to supplying weapons to Israel, and 68% were in favor of a cease-fire.
On Thursday (Dec. 7), the White House also broke ties with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest Muslim civil rights organization. The Biden administration condemned director Nihad Ahmad’s statement that he was “happy to see” Palestinians break out of Gaza and that Gaza had a right to self-defense, whereas Israel, as an “occupying state,” did not.
On Friday (Dec. 8), the U.S. vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for a cease-fire.
Hussein believes the break between the president and Muslim voters has reached a point of no return. Through the #AbandonBiden campaign, Muslim leaders hope to send a strong signal to the Biden administration: Siding with Israel’s deadly strikes in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks comes with a high cost.
“If we make Biden a one-term president, it will send a strong signal to future presidents that there is a cost to supporting genocide, and that cost is significant,” he said.
Hussein is also the director of CAIR’s Minnesota Chapter, although the organization is not affiliated with the #AbandonBiden movement.
Even if it is a Muslim initiative, the coalition hopes other voters disappointed by Biden’s foreign policy will rally the movement. Still in its budding phase, the campaign will focus on local community outreach and grassroots-level actions. The movement has also been vocal on social media.
Hussein noted that in response to President Biden’s official visit to Nevada this Friday (Dec. 8), movement members had published a statement reaffirming that they had abandoned Biden.
“For the first time, I think Muslim Americans want to make a significant move here,” said Hussein.
Hassan Shibly, a member of the coalition who attended Dearborn’s press conference and referred to President Biden as “Genocide Joe,” said the White House’s decision to unequivocally support Israel in its response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks prompted him to withhold his support for Biden in the next election.
On Oct. 27, White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby reaffirmed Washington’s support for Israel’s retaliatory strikes, saying, “We’re not drawing red lines for Israel.” Shibly was shocked by these declarations, he said.
“We want them to understand that genocide is the red line for Muslim voters. Palestinian human rights are a red line. Their political careers on the national level will be over if they support such bloodshed,” said Shibly.
Shibly, like Hussein, thinks without Muslim voters, Biden stands zero chance of winning the upcoming election.
Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage, an organization that does political outreach in Muslim communities, said the #AbandonBiden movement could definitely impact Biden’s performance in states like Michigan, Arizona and Georgia.
However, Alzayat, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said calls for boycotts are premature and dangerous at this stage of the campaign.
“We are disappointed in the unconditional support for Netanyahu, who is committing war crimes,” he said, before adding, “This means we have to move smartly and strategically as a community. It’s about making sure we vote and support our allies rather than communicating who we are abandoning today when we are facing Trump next year,” he said.
Muslim leaders should focus on supporting congressional members and state legislators who have denounced anti-Palestinian hate, he claimed.
“We have to understand that when you signal you’re abandoning someone, in the American political system, it means you are telling people you want Trump to win,” he said.
According to recent polls, Donald Trump could win the Republican primary election with 63% of the vote.
Hussein affirmed voting for Trump is a line the #AbandonBiden movement won’t cross. Shibly, who is Syrian-American, said he has stood against Trump’s Muslim ban and will not vote for Trump. The 2017 bill banned access to the U.S. to citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.