Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Blog

In keeping track of Arab Americans in political life, we would like to highlight a recently-elected Democratic Party delegates from Massachusetts: Mushtaque Mirza.

Mirza’s own upbringing was quite diverse: he was born in India to a partly Arab family on his mother’s side and Persian on his father’s side. He’s very active with the Arab American community in Massachusetts, and attributes his involvement in politics to a 1984 visit to Boston by Dr. James Zogby, subsequently the founder of the Arab American Institute. “He told us ‘you live in this country, you belong to this country, and you have to get involved to get representation’” Mirza recalled Zogby saying.

 Mirza’s primary motivation to getting involved in politics is to seek wider political representation for Arab Americans and American Muslims, and to make sure that they are treated like all other Americans. “We do not belong to one race, one religion, or one national origin; we are culturally diverse, but we do have one common goal: making sure that we are an integral part of the American fabric, not outsiders, and that we are correctly viewed that way.”

Mirza, a “Diplomat Environmental Engineer,” earned a Master’s degree in engineering from the University of Connecticut, and lived for some time in Rhode Island before eventually moving to Massachusetts. Mirza disagreed with Arab Americans who shy away from plugging into the political process. He said that while participating in demonstrations was a good way to express opinions, deeper involvement in politics was crucial to getting things done.

Mirza’s advice to Arab Americans who are interested in becoming more politically active is to begin locally: “All politics are local, and if you want to get anything done, that’s where you begin.”  Mirza encourages Arab Americans to join political parties and participate in campaigns, including “door-to-door canvassing, phone-banking and so on,” to attend town halls and city council meetings, and to build up from there.

Mirza also noted that there are many challenges in politics. “The Palestinian issue is so sad,” Mirza noted, “but change doesn’t happen overnight, and we have to be patient and keep working at it, and eventually things will get better.”

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