Ironically, it was Donald Trump's implication that Muslim-American women are not allowed to speak that inspired Mirriam Seddiq to find her voice.
The Republican nominee has made a series of controversial statements about Islam and Muslim immigrants, but perhaps one of the most memorable was a comment he made to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos during the Democratic National Convention.
Speaking about Ghazala Khan, whose son Captain Humayun Khan died while serving in Iraq in 2004 and who stood on stage while her husband delivered a speech at the DNC, Trump said: “His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say.”
The claim that Khan, and by implication, other Muslim-American women, isn't allowed to speak is false— indeed, the Gold Star mother wrote an editorial in the Washington Post refuting Trump's comments. However, the idea that Muslim women have often been without a platform to make their voices heard is all too true, says Mirriam Seddiq, a Maryland-based criminal defense lawyer. "We [Muslim women] let this happen to us because we don’t raise our voices and don’t raise money," Seddiq says.
To remedy that, she launched in August the first-ever political action committee for Muslim-American women, a project she says sprung from her own search for place to channel her frustration with the current political climate.
"I had been looking to see where I could put my energies and my efforts...there are lots of groups that work towards empowering Muslim women, some ethnically-divided groups, but nothing for us. No Emily's list for us."
So Seddiq decided to create the American Muslim Women Political Action Committee, an organization that is "purely political," she says. "It's not about charity. It’s not about needing a helping hand."
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"There are so many of us who know politics, who are involved in policy, but we're only there for the photo op," she says. "You don’t get seat at the table unless you raise money and raise your voice."
The AMW PAC has already endorsed Hillary Clinton and intends to model itself after Emily's List, which aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office. Seddiq's PAC, however, will focus on issues affecting Muslim-American women specifically and will not endorse female candidates if their platforms don't align.
For example, the PAC will not be endorsing Gov. Maggie Hassan for New Hampshire's Senate seat because she called for a complete halt of Syrian refugees coming into the U.S.
"I'm warning Washington: You cannot ignore us," says Seddiq. "If we’re going to take you seriously, you have to take us seriously."