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Arab and Muslim Leaders in Michigan Refuse to Meet With Biden Campaign

“I will not entertain conversations about elections while we watch a livestreamed genocide,” said Dearborn’s mayor.

Residents of Detroit and Dearborn march in support of Palestine on October 14, 2023, in Dearborn, Michigan.

U.S. President Joe Biden narrowly won Michigan in 2020, but his reelection campaign’s trip to the key swing state on Friday made clear that his support for Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip is angering Arab American and Muslim voters.

Assad Turfe, a deputy Wayne County executive, was coordinating a Friday afternoon meeting with Biden’s delegation, led by campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez. He reached out to over 10 Arab and Muslim leaders in the Dearborn area.

“As the community got to learn about the meeting, there was definitely a lot of outrage and, ultimately, the decision was made to cancel the meeting,” he told The Detroit News, adding that the cancellation was “in the best interest of the community.”

Turfe also publicly warned the Democrat’s campaign that “unless something drastic happens, you have lost the Arab American and Muslim community.”

“At this point, from what I can see, there’s no winning them over. That was the idea of the meeting,” he said. “Until there’s a cease-fire, the overall consensus in the community is they’re not welcome here, essentially.”

Democratic Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud was among the local leaders who declined an invitation to the scrapped meeting.

“The lives of Palestinians are not measured in poll numbers. Their humanity demands action, not lip service. When elected officials view the atrocities in Gaza only as an electoral problem, they reduce our indescribable pain into a political calculation,” Hammoud said on social media Friday, noting that Israel’s U.S.-backed war has now killed over 26,000 Palestinians.

“Our immediate demand is crystal clear: The Biden administration must call for a permanent cease-fire to a genocide it is defending and funding with our tax dollars,” he continued. “Dearborn residents have tirelessly protested and organized in demand of a cease-fire. As their mayor, I follow their lead.”

Hammoud added that “community engagement is powerful when it is used to shape policies that save lives — these conversations must be had with policymakers, not campaign staff. I will not entertain conversations about elections while we watch a livestreamed genocide backed by our government.”

The canceled meeting was set to be held on the same day that the International Court of Justice issued its initial ruling in the South African-led case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza — to which the U.S. government responded by making clear it would not push Israel to end the devastating military assault.

Others who were invited to the meeting include state Reps. Alabas Farhat (D-3) and Abraham Aiyash (D-4), Michigan’s House majority floor leader, who said on social media that “we will not allow our communities to be utilized for political expediency.”

Farhat said that he agreed with the decision to cancel the meeting.

“This pushback is not just about failed policy — it’s about humanity,” he explained. “It’s unrealistic to expect that political conversations will re-secure our support for the president when only a cease-fire can truly reopen that door.”

Citing an unnamed source familiar with Rodríguez’s schedule, The Associated Press reported that she still “held multiple meetings across Detroit and Dearborn that have been in the works for weeks, and that included talking with many Michigan leaders, such as local elected officials and leaders from the state’s Arab and Palestinian American, Hispanic, and Black communities.”

According to the AP:

“People in the community, like community leaders, don’t want to meet with Mr. Biden,” said Dawud Walid, the executive director of Michigan’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I don’t know who he’s planning on meeting with, but the major organizations are not interested in meeting with him.”

Hundreds gathered Friday for an “Abandon Biden” rally movement at the Islamic Center of Detroit that included prominent civil rights activist Imam Omar Suleiman. The event was timed for when organizers heard Rodríguez would be visiting to urge otherwise sympathetic voters not to support Biden in November.

The frosty reception to the president’s team came just two days after the United Auto Workers formally backed his reelection — after which Reuters reported that “a Biden campaign official said this endorsement will mean more in November in Michigan than the anger among Muslim voters in the state over the administration’s support for Israel.”

Turfe suggested Friday that the Biden administration is misreading voters and clearly does not “understand how big of a problem this is and how upset and angry the community is.”

With recent wins in the GOP’s Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, former President Donald Trump is expected to face Biden in November, despite his ongoing legal trouble.

In response to how the president’s campaign handled Michigan on Friday, Nina Turner, a senior fellow at the Institute on Race, Power, and Political Economy, warned that “Biden is throwing away electoral support to back a right-wing Israeli government that would prefer Trump wins in 2024.”

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