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Candidates Courting Muslim Voters In Northern Virginia

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Candidates for office speak at Dar Alnoor Islamic Community Center in Manassas, Va.
Michael Pope
Candidates for office speak at Dar Alnoor Islamic Community Center in Manassas, Va.

At the Dar AlNoor Community Center in Manassas, Va., thousands of Muslims gathered for Eid, the end of Ramadan, and so have about a dozen candidates for office. Safiya Samman of Woodbridge says every year, more and more candidates come to the community center to court an increasingly important voting bloc.

"The Muslims are really part of the American structure, and they are citizens of this country, and we feel very much American," says Samman.

Republican Del. Mark Dudenhefer came to the center asking for votes.

"I have not been here before, and I apologize for not having been here before," says Dudenhefer. "I think dialogue and understanding is the shortest road to having a free society."

Many of the issues here are the same you would hear anywhere else. Muslims want good schools and good roads. Other issues are more focused to the needs of the community, such as opposition to legislation prohibiting Islamic law in Virginia.

"I think they want to appeal to a certain segment who are out there to do work against minorities," says Rafi Ahmen, president of the Muslim Association of Virginia.

Last year and then again this year, legislation to ban Islamic law failed to get out of committee. Republican attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain says he thinks the legislation is unnecessary.

"There is always a great deal of concern in Richmond about things that are unfamiliar, and I think that the General Assembly showed good judgment in slowing down the process," Obenshain says.

Lama Samman of Woodbridge says she's glad politicians are starting to take Muslim voters seriously.

"A lot more of us are becoming more involved in the community at different levels, whether they be at the political or at the grassroots level," says Samman. "So, you know, we are starting to make a difference hopefully."

All politics is local, though. And so one of the biggest issues here is zoning. Leaders at the center are planning to open a school.

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