A mayor for Philly’s Muslim community?
So far, only one of the mayoral candidates has reached out to Muslim communities in Philadelphia. What’s the rationale?
There was one person at Jim Kenney’s announcement today you may not have seen at any of the mayoral events so far. His name is Yahya Abdul Latif, a Muslim leader from Masjid Ash-Shura in North Philadelphia. It was the first mayoral event he’s attended — and that’s not by choice. So far Kenney is the only candidate to invite Muslim leadership in Philadelphia to his events, according to Abdul Latif.
“We need to be here to represent the Muslims in Philadelphia,” he said.
Lauren Hitt, Kenney’s campaign manager, said they had send an invitation to Marwan Kreidie, acting spokesman for Al-Aqsa Islamic Society in North Philadelphia. Kreidie himself could not attend the announcement, but spread the invitation to other leaders in the North Philadelphia Muslim community.
Unlike other attendees — among them organizations like National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, Local 1191 who had already backed Kenney — Abdul Latif’s attendance did not necessarily mean that Kenney had his political support.
“We need to meet with Mr. Kenney before,” he said. “So I’m here to give him an invitation to meet with our leadership in Philadelphia.”
Majlis Ash Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley has worked with every mayor’s office for over 30 years. Officially, Muslims number around 200,000 in Philadelphia (85 percent of which are African American), but Abdul Latif puts the population closer to 250,000. Even if one-fifth of that community voted, that’s more than enough to push a candidate forward in Philly, or at least move votes between the frontrunners.
So why have none of the other mayoral campaigns reached out to Philly’s Muslim leaders?
One possibility is that they’re afraid of the bargaining table.
Masjid Ash Shura’s website doesn’t express many political agendas. But the one platform piece it contains is an official statement from against homosexuality issued in 2014, which begins “the laws of God cannot be legislated away.” Kenney is not only one of the earliest city advocates for LGBT rights legislation, he calls it one of his proudest memories as a 23-year councilman.
Regardless, Philly’s Muslim community is by no means a unified force. West Philadelphia boasts about nine mosques to itself. Some mosques cater mostly to Arabic-speaking congregations, others just to African-American Muslims, and even more, like Al-Aqsa, to a mixed-heritage community. Islam, like Christianity, is practiced differently in different communities. Their voices are diverse, and for Philly’s mayoral candidates, too numerous to ignore.