Preaching Beyond the Choir

March 21, 2017

Dear Friend,

The Muslim community has seen an outpour of support since the inauguration, and in many ways Donald Trump’s election has resulted in progressive shifts in public opinion towards Muslims. According to one study, attitudes toward “Muslim people” became progressively more favorable from 53 percent in November 2015 to 70 percent in October 2016.

While this change in public opinion is heartening, almost all of the positive shifts came from Democrats and independents, not Republicans. The more one side emphasized their support for Muslims, the more the other side took the opposite position. In fact, up to 47 percent of Americans support the Muslim travel ban. That’s almost half of our country.

Public opinion shapes public policy. So to achieve more equitable policies toward American Muslims, we need to improve the perception of Muslims and Islam within groups that are still skeptical. Sure, some say that this is not a fair burden for the American Muslim community to bear; I agree -- it's not fair.

But in an era of “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and “so-called judges,” we cannot stand on our soapbox and lecture about fairness. Political realities and data have shown this is not an effective strategy. We need to preach beyond the choir. Since President Trump’s election, MPAC has been working to reach those who are beyond our natural audience.

We are traveling around the country to speak to the malleable middle in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona -- all states that voted Republican in the last presidential election. We will scale this work by training Muslim communities on how to speak to, and win over, skeptical audiences and improve perceptions of Muslims.

By focusing on healing in the era of Trump, our Board Chair, Seema Ahmad, moved a crowd of 1,200 to tears at a congressional town hall. That same weekend, I spoke at the J Street National Conference about what Jews can do to counter Islamophobia in their community and beyond.

In Hollywood, we told to hundreds of talent agents at Creative Artists Agency’s (CAA) Take Action Day that they can play a critical role in helping Muslims build institutional strength in an industry that often vilifies Muslims.

Changing perceptions to achieve better policies will have to be a collective effort. How are you preaching beyond the choir?


Salam Al-Marayati




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