Bay Ridge

Muslim Democrats flex muscles after Gounardes’ big night

November 8, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The protest demonstration outside state Sen. Martin Golden office included the participation of several Muslim-Americans. Eagle file photo by Paul Frangipane
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A protest demonstration outside Republican state Sen. Martin Golden’s Bay Ridge office organized by left-leaning Muslim and Jewish groups might have had enough power to sway undecided voters to vote for his Democratic opponent Andrew Gounardes, according to a leader of one of the organizations.

Mohammad Khan, a member of the Board of Directors of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York (MDCNY), said the Nov. 2 demonstration his group organized with Yalla Brooklyn and the Jewish Vote to protest Golden’s refusal to fire controversial campaign staffer Ian Reilly was a pivotal moment in the last stages of the bitter campaign.

“There was definitely a lot of sentiment about folks being upset over Golden’s refusal to fire the staffer,” Khan told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday.

The protesters were seeking to put public pressure on Golden to fire Reilly, his campaign office manager, for inviting Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes to speak at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan on Oct. 12. Reilly is a member of the club’s board of directors. A melee between Proud Boys members and anti-fascist protestors took place outside the club and led to several arrests. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Proud Boys as a hate group.

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Golden steadfastly refused to can Reilly.

Dozens of protesters took part in the demonstration outside Golden’s office at 7408 Fifth Ave. on the Friday before the election.

Golden had been seeking re-election in the 22nd Senate District. Gounardes, who had also called on Golden to fire Reilly over the Proud Boys incident, apparently defeated Golden on Nov. 6, although the incumbent has not yet conceded and the election results have not been certified by the New York City Board of Elections.

The dramatic protest, which incorporated Muslim and Jewish traditions, such as sitting Shiva, might have turned some heads and persuaded voters who were sitting on the fence, Khan said.

The MDCNY endorsed Gounardes and worked to help get him elected, knocking on doors and making phone calls to Muslim-Americans on his behalf to increase voter participation in South Brooklyn’s Muslim community.

The club also backed Democrat Max Rose, who defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan in the race in New York’s 11th Congressional District (Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) in the election.

The Gounardes and Rose campaigns gave Arab-American and Muslim-American political organizations a chance to flex their considerable political muscle in Bay Ridge, leaders said.

In a statement issued by the MDCNY, Tahanie Aboushi, the club’s president, said the big wins posted by Gounardes and Rose “put the final nail in the coffin of the absurd idea that Arab and Muslim communities don’t vote.”

Arab and Muslim voter turnout in South Brooklyn and all over New York City has been steadily increasing in recent election cycles, according to Aboushi, who said the uptick “will only continue to do so as our communities become better organized and more engaged.”

The Gounardes and Rose campaigns are proof that “politicians and political institutions who continue to discount Arab and Muslim communities do so at their own peril,” Khan said.


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