CHICAGO — Muslim community leaders from several swing states pledged to withdraw support for U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday at a conference in suburban Detroit, citing his refusal to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Democrats in Michigan have warned the White House that Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war could cost him enough support within the Arab American community to sway the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
Leaders from Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania gathered behind a lectern that read “Abandon Biden, ceasefire now” in Dearborn, Mich., the city with the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States.
The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday updated the death toll in the Israel-Hamas war to 15,200 Palestinians, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors. Some 1,200 Israelis have been killed, most during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas that triggered the war.
Biden’s unwillingness to call for a cease-fire has damaged his relationship with the American Muslim community beyond repair, according to Minneapolis-based Jaylani Hussein, who helped organize the conference.
“Families and children are being wiped out with our tax dollars,” Hussein said. “What we are witnessing today is the tragedy upon tragedy.”
Hussein, who is Muslim, told The Associated Press: “The anger in our community is beyond belief. One of the things that made us even more angry is the fact that most of us actually voted for President Biden. I even had one incident where a religious leader asked me, ‘How do I get my 2020 ballot so I can destroy it?”
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates previously said the Biden administration has pushed for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, adding that “fighting against the poison of antisemitism and standing up for Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself have always been core values for President Biden.”
Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were critical components of the “blue wall” of states that Biden returned to the Democratic column, helping him win the White House in 2020. About 3.45 million Americans identify as Muslim, or 1.1 percent of the country’s population, and the demographic tends to lean Democratic, according to the Pew Research Center.
But leaders said Saturday that the community’s support for Biden has vanished as more Palestinian men, women and children are killed in Gaza.
“We are not powerless as American Muslims. We are powerful. We don’t only have the money, but we have the actual votes. And we will use that vote to save this nation from itself,” Hussein said at the conference.
The Muslim community leaders’ condemnation of Biden does not indicate support for former President Donald Trump, the clear front-runner in the Republican primary, Hussein clarified.
“We don’t have two options. We have many options. And we’re going to exercise that,” he said.