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Democrat in Michigan's Gubernatorial Race Finds Muslim Support Growing

June 28th 2010

Islamic Topics - Dearborn MI mosque
Mosque in Dearborn, Michigan

In an email, distributed on June 24, Farhan Bhatti, the Deputy Campaign Manger for Democrat Virg Bernero’s gubernatorial run in Michigan, called upon fellow Muslims to support his candidate. Bhatti noted that Bernero, currently the mayor Michigan’s capital city—Lansing—has the support of the UAW, AFSCME, the Michigan Educators’ Association, and two popular Michigan politicians who he identified as “dear friends to the Muslim community”—Congressman Dale Kildee (D) and former Congressman David Bonior (D).

Presenting Bernero as a moderate, Bhatti greets readers with the traditional Muslim blessing “As salaam alaikum” and notes that his candidate also has the support of the Lansing Chamber of Commerce, and heralding “His energy, vision, and enthusiasm can help get our state out of the mess we find ourselves in, due to years of failed leadership in the state legislature, beginning with our opponent, Andy Dillon (Ed. fellow Democrat), Speaker of the Michigan House.”

Bhatti also says in his email “Mayor Bernero’s cabinet is the most diverse in Lansing’s history, and certainly he would want to bring that same diversity to the Governor’s office. While positions for appointments would be based on qualifications and not race, ethnicity, or religion, certainly having Mayor Bernero in the Governor’s office would present the Muslim community with arguably our best chance at getting a high-level appointment to the Governor’s Cabinet or other positions for which we may have qualified candidates, but are often overlooked.”

The email expresses hope that Michigan’s populous Arab and Muslim communities will come out in support of Bernero, who Bhatti says has held an annual “Mayor’s Ramadan Dinner” since 2007 “to bring people of every faith together to educate people about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as well as to use the event as a way to raise money and awareness for the Mid Michigan Food Bank and the Greater Lansing Food Bank …”

Bhatti has taken a leave of absence from his study of medicine. He has been associated with events sponsored by CAIR—the Council for American Islamic Relations—which has a powerful presence in Michigan, a state that has one of the largest Arab and Muslim populations in the US. The largest mosque in the U.S. is located in the Dearborn suburb of Detroit.

Bernero is one of several candidates in a currently crowded race for the Michigan governorship. Primaries are scheduled for August 3. Among Democrats, Bernero is challenged now only by Andy Dillon, after Lieutenant Governor John Cherry and former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee dropped out earlier in the year. Republicans are now in a horse race between current Attorney General Mike Cox, U.S. Congressman and current Republican front-runner Peter Hoekstra from conservative western Michigan, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard of the Detroit suburbs, State Senator Thomas George of Kalamazoo, and Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder.

Cutting Edge senior correspondent Martin Barillas is editor of Speroforum.

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