Emgage USA PAC, leaders have recently been dubbed as “the pro-Israel Muslims backing Joe Biden.” Meanwhile, Emgage bills itself as “a family of institutions that seeks to empower Muslim Americans through political literacy and civic engagement.” As a former Emgage employee, I have witnessed first hand how Emgage becomes a roadblock to progress between the interests of the broader Muslim community and the political establishment. Instead of being a vehicle for empowerment and change, it has become a tool to undermine and suffocate American Muslim political power.
Many Muslim leaders are sitting around and holding their breath wondering if Emgage can represent our communities. This concern about this “family of institutions,” which constitutes Emgage, is deeply problematic. Emgage is notoriously shunned in many communities and has yet to show its ability to make any real difference in a presidential race like other PACS spending millions of dollars.
Emgage has failed to effectively mobilize Muslim voters, because it lacks legitimacy in the Muslim community. The organization misrepresents its power through sham data, because it reaches out to non-Muslims for voter registration when it is turned away from Muslim spaces. Emgage cannot deliver on its promises to the Democratic Party. All it has been able to do is thwart the work of actual Muslim leaders and organizers, turning them away from various Democratic Party campaigns, including the Victory 2020 team for Joe Biden. I have seen all this with my own eyes and watched in horror. If Emgage did not exist, the only people who would be harmed are the careerists who would lose out on administration jobs and access to power.
How can I say this with such certainty? Because I worked at Emgage for the past four years; beginning as a doe-eyed volunteer, then as a hopeful South Florida Director, and finally as the Florida Operations Director who woke up. I have firsthand knowledge of all its inner workings, its lack of finances, its lack of development, its lack of diversity and its patriarchal system that views women as secretaries, but most of all its extreme inefficiency.
It took me a while to realize I was participating in a troop of polished careerists who did not finish the work. Behind closed doors there were arguments over who spoke to elected officials or led town halls, the Muslim organizations that we were not allowed to partner with due to personal feuds, and the ever growing number of groups that did not let us step foot in their mosques and spaces. As someone assigned to oversee GOTV (Get Out the Vote) programs, I was haunted by ghosts of elections past knowing that Emgage was ineffective because we were unable to register any significant number of Muslim voters in our communities due to this lack of relationship with grassroots we claimed to represent. Instead, we had to venture out to other non-Muslim minorities in order to meet our voter registration goals.
Having converted to Islam just a few years prior, I was willing to sit back and listen. I assumed that it was the difference in culture which made things work differently behind their closed doors. Little did I know that Emgage was simply a stage prop with one goal: to be accepted by elected officials as the voice for the Muslim American community. I began to ask myself how they could seek to be a voice for a community which did not accept them? And how Emgage co-founder Farooq Mitha, a key leader of Emgage itself, could be Vice President Biden’s Muslim representative, when my Ummah didn’t acknowledge him? How could someone with no legitimacy in the eyes of the community be given so much power and forced upon them?
I eventually realized that Emgage is not there to empower us. The leadership was biding time, vying for the Trump administration to change, and for their White House appointments to come. The second-tier executive young bloods were holding onto the promise they would be taken up with them. Meanwhile, the ruse continued.
I watched as the Emgage Action PAC passed out endorsements like they were Chiclets. I kept asking, “Why are we endorsing these candidates without proper questionnaires and interviews? How can we be sure they represent our Muslim community?” I sent texts and emails asking for updated questionnaires so they could be sent to all the candidates for the races they were choosing to endorse in. No replies for months. Just requests to post endorsement cards in Florida.
Now, that Emgage is under scrutiny, they are scrounging, calling and texting those prematurely endorsed candidates and asking for back dated questionnaires. How will they get the opposing candidates in those same races to fill them out as well? And the interviews that were never done?
Every year, they distributed voter PAC cards to display endorsed candidates, and I wondered what was the real vetting process to get an Emgage PAC endorsement. Was it friendship? Was it funding support? Was it a promise of a seat on some municipal board? It surely was not investigation and open group discussion. So, I never trusted them to tell me who to vote for. I became disillusioned with the whole process.
By 2019, Emgage’s self-proclaimed title as the Muslim representatives in American politics was already being questioned publicly. I was watching the façade slowly melt away. Emgage lost credibility from among its own ranks, as the links to the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI) were exposed, they were called out for the way they compromised the Ummah on Palestine issues, and their Zionist connections were being investigated. Since 2014, Sana Saeed has been reporting about the disturbing faithwashing efforts of MLI.
Separately, Emgage was endorsing and fundraising candidates with known RSS and BJP connections, such as Sri Kulkarni in Texas. As early as 2015, the RSS has been setting it sights on Kashmir. Indian Muslim activists in Texas have also been raising the alarm about the mess with Emgage and its RSS and BJP connections.
They did not stand up for us and oppose the establishment. In fact, the human rights advocacy work on Uyghur and Rohingya Muslim populations was so cursory. Most of the policy recommendations that Emgage did support were already state department policies and part of the Democratic Party platform. Emgage’s policy on Uyghur and Rohingya Muslims was pretty much the same even as Trump’s stance. There was no courage in tackling major issues, like Palestine, Kashmir, drones, and Zionist normalization. In fact, Emgage’s national security engagement is total fluff. Having Emgage at the table drowns out the voices of those who are seeking to do meaningful work.
I began to probe and ask more questions. Once again, my inner dialogue kept me wondering, “Is their job to block the Muslims who are really trying to create change? Am I surrounded by higher up leadership put in place to sabotage our efforts to organize and empower?” Frankly, I was beginning to have nightmares about my work with Emgage. I knew that if I said that out loud I would be treated with the same sarcasm and disdain as was their usual approach to silence anyone, especially women, who left the sheep pen.
In January of 2020, I found solace as I became involved in supporting the Indian community in opposing Narendra Modi and his BJP party’s attacks on non-Hindu communities in India. A group of Indian Muslim activists circulated a resolution to end the restrictions on communication and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir in order to preserve religious freedom for India’s Muslim, Christian, and Dalit residents. I had no idea then that this was going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Had I asked too many questions?
I was told to cease all work and support for the Indian community, because they were not getting involved in joining the Emgage boards or donating money. I could not abandon all our hard work. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal had already introduced the House Resolution 745 in Congress. I had already met with over ten congresspeople to discuss this violation of human rights, and I was very passionate about helping find accountability for India.
However, within 24 hours I was told my attendance would not be necessary at the Florida Board Retreat. A disinvitation I found baffling since I was the one in charge of program reports. I remember thinking, “How are they going to measure if we are on track or if things are in order if they don’t have tangible numbers and reports to verify progress?” Yet, in true Emgage fashion they gathered to talk and make plans with no measurable idea of where they were standing. It was a glorified gathering of importance with no follow through as it was year after year. Coming from a corporate background, I did not understand that approach, but I was beginning to see that I had to speak out and build to replace the shadow political organization that was Emgage.
I was fired from Emgage for speaking out. Even if Emgage doesn’t have widespread support in the Muslim community, those with political aspirations still seem willing to go along to get appointments in a new Biden administration. Emgage is currently collecting resumes for vetting. They are holding the keys for Muslims to the White House in 2021.
Meanwhile, if Muslim organizations continue to work with Emgage they will be lockstep with Zionists and the BJP.