How election in NY divided Muslim Americans

The Democratic winner of the February 13 by-election is the veteran politician, Tom Suozzi

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Democratic politician Tom Suozzi (right) and Republican Melesa Pilip. — Provided by the reporter
Democratic politician Tom Suozzi (right) and Republican Melesa Pilip. — Provided by the reporter 

Israel’s war on Gaza has seemingly reached the streets of New York. Not only has it pitched New Yorkers against the government and their elected representatives but also caused fissures among Pakistani Americans.

This fact has become more evident during the recent special by-election in New York’s 3rd District. The contest itself was divisive for many reasons. Yet, it became more so due to the candidates’ extreme pro-Israel stance.

Many Muslim voters, who have deep sympathies with the Palestinians, found themselves in a fix to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

As feared, the election flared up their sentiments not only against the candidates but also against those who supported and participated in their campaigns.

The special election was held after serial liar republican George Santos was disgracefully removed from Congress over charges of corruption. The fraudster had also lied about his Jewish ancestry.

The Democratic winner of the February 13 by-election is the veteran politician, Tom Suozzi. He is the son of the state who earlier got elected Nassau County executive and mayor of Glen Cove. Since 2017, he has also served as member of the House of Representatives.

The 61-year-old Suozzi’s views were known to most Pakistani Americans for at least three decades. Throughout his political career, Suozzi had attended a number of events hosted by this vibrant community and had also visited Pakistan during the devastating flood.

His Republican rival Mazi Melesa Pilip was a lesser-known figure. When she was 12, her family moved from Ethiopia to Israel. Before immigrating to Nassau County, she had served in the Israeli Defence Forces’ elite Paratrooper Brigade.

Her background was enough to displease many Muslim voters who equated her to the current IDF involved in the genocide of Palestinians. On the other hand, Suozzi’s unequivocal support for Israel had also perplexed them.

At the top of it, the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) endorsed Tom Suozzi for flipping the red constituency to blue.

In its statement, JDCA called for joining "Our efforts to elect Tom Suozzi-who aligns with Jewish voters on every key issue, including combating antisemitism…and supporting Israel."

NY-03 constituency is diverse in every respect. It is home to 742,000 people and almost one-fourth are Asian Americans. About 11% of voters identify themselves as Jewish and roughly 18,000 are Muslim. Most of them hail from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC) which had earlier supported top democrats and republicans hosted both Suozzi and Mazi. The aim was to hear them out before making any decision.

A participant who wanted to remain anonymous told this scribe that, a senior member of APPAC confronted Suozzi over his pro-Israel stance. He questioned Suozzi: "How do you sleep at night when Israel is indiscriminately bombing Gaza and killing thousands of innocent Palestinians that include women and children?"

According to another participant, it enraged Suozzi who remarked that at least, he was there to meet Muslim Pakistanis. The democrat furiously claimed that Mazi wouldn’t even meet Muslims.

Surprisingly, it was Mazi Pilip who requested a meeting with the influential Pakistani American organization.

After the meeting, Shahid Ali, the communication director of APPAC stated that "APPAC had confronted Mazi on the issue of Gaza, which is very near and dear to us and we will never compromise on it".

In the end, APPAC refrained from endorsing or donating money to any of the two candidates. In its statement, APPAC clarified: "Our decision reflects our commitment to impartiality and ensuring that our endorsement process remains fair and equitable."

However, a photo of APPAC meeting with Mazi was enough to incite hatred against the members of this non-partisan organisation. They were labelled as "Opportunists, a bunch of sellouts, pigs and wolves in sheep’s clothing." 

The picture shows a social media post of li.students4palestine. — Instagram
The picture shows a social media post of li.students4palestine. — Instagram

Commenting on social media, a user who identifies himself as Malikk commented: "So disappointing…. Subhanallah the timing…. exactly when Rafah is getting obliterated."

Another who identifies by nickname jiji jku remarked: "Name and shame them. Cop loving clout chasers and now supporting this iof clown. Glad they’re being put on blast after years of hurting POC."

Coalitionforlwli taunted by saying: ‘Absolutely disgraceful lol. The weight of their purse is more than the weight of lives to them unashamed and greedy."

The troll continued despite a Pakistani American, Chaudhry Akram, clarifying that he had attended a meet and greet with Mazi in his personal capacity. He also admitted not being associated with APPAC.

Akram said: "I unintentionally misspoke and said WE support Mazi Pilip." He further stated that, ‘I want to be clear: this statement only reflected my own personal opinion. I apologise for speaking on behalf of others in the room or the wider community."

The picture shows screenshot of WhatsApp chat. — Provided by the reporter
The picture shows screenshot of WhatsApp chat. — Provided by the reporter 

However, the troll continued. Miniboythecat commented that, "Promoting Maqlooba fundraiser but standing shoulder to shoulder with a idf supporter, MAKE IT MAKE SENSE."

Aysh_k14 said, "The fact you were there is enough to ask you to step down. Appalled!!"

Some even urged their followers to boycott APPAC. Sofinakat said, "Boycott their business, do not let them forget."

A few who knew the truth came to rescue APPAC. 

Theimankhan explained: "I know this organisation, and Dr Ijaz very well and they are not supporting any candidate this year. They have met with the candidates only to voice their concerns and what the Pakistani community needs. Please don’t spread misinformation!"

Meanwhile, Seherdemiral0914 declared, "The munafiks are being exposed. As promised."

Apparently, those who couldn’t vent their anger enough decided to take a step further. They wrote "sellout" with colour or blood outside the home of Raza Datagir.

Raza had attended the meet and greet with Mazi only to confront the Republican. Like Akram, he too, was not a member of APPAC. However, he ended up facing a hate crime that caused his wife and kids to hysterically come out of their house.

It is evident that, in the name of Israel’s war on Gaza, some people are settling scores while others are following them blindly.

It won’t be surprising if this war of words on social media ends up damaging the lives and properties of those who have opposing views or are being portrayed as "munafiq".

The controversies generated during the NY-03 special by-elections are just the beginning.

If strict actions are not taken, presidential elections may divide the Muslim community more so. After all, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden are bending backwards to support the "genocide of Palestinians at the hands of Israel".