April 8, 2016

In News

Wisconsin Muslims overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders

| Wednesday, 04.06.2016, 12:35 PM

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN — Sen. Bernie Sanders trounced Hillary Clinton in the Wisconsin primary Tuesday night, winning all but three of the state’s 72 counties.

Following a pattern in other states, Sanders dominated among younger voters, and won more than 70 percent of independent voters.

As she has across the country, Clinton did carry the state’s voters of color and its most diverse city: Milwaukee.

Yet supporters of the Vermont senator said he won, in part, by reaching out to communities often ignored by political candidates, including Wisconsin’s growing Muslim population. In the days leading up to the primary, Linda Sarsour, a high profile civil rights activist and director of the Arab American Association of New York, spread Sanders’ message to Muslims in Milwaukee.

“I encouraged them to make the moral choice and vote Bernie Sanders,” Sarsour told ThinkProgress. “His votes against the Iraq War and against the Patriot Act, his inclusion, and [his] call for Palestinian self-determination are helping him make inroads. He’s not a perfect candidate and we don’t expect there to be a perfect candidate, but Sanders is willing to reach out and listen.”

In Michigan, Sanders’ strong showing among large Muslim communities in Dearborn and other cities swept him to an upset victory. Both in Michigan and Wisconsin, Muslim voters praised Sanders for speaking out strongly against Islamophobia at a time of high anxiety around Islam.

At a massive rally in Madison on Sunday night, Sanders even tapped Sarsour to introduce him to a crowd of mostly white students. “Senator Sanders has welcomed all people into his campaign,” she told thousands cheering in the arena. “I stand before you unapologetically Muslim and Palestinian. When I started campaign for Bernie, they didn’t say, ‘Don’t be too Muslim up there. Don’t bring up that Palestinian stuff.’ They accept all of me.”

Both nationally and in Wisconsin, anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise.

Exit polls in Tuesday’s election found that more than two-thirds of Wisconsin Republicans support Trump’s proposal to indefinitely ban all Muslims from immigrating to the United States.

In light of such attitudes, Milwaukee voters said they considered Sanders’ outreach to Muslims courageous.

“I have a lot of respect for someone who actually reaches out to Muslims, because that can get a lot of negative stigma,” said Bushra Fathima, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “It kind of moves me.”