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Oz’s Senate bid may very well be a Muslim first however is ‘sophisticated’

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — If Dr. Mehmet Oz is elected to the U.S. Senate this fall, he’ll be the primary Muslim ever to serve within the chamber. It’s one thing he hardly brings up whereas campaigning, his Democratic opponent isn’t elevating it and it’s barely a subject of dialog in Pennsylvania’s Muslim group.

Even when Muslims know that Oz — the movie star coronary heart surgeon finest often known as the host of daytime TV’s “The Dr. Oz Present” — is a fellow Muslim, many could not determine with him culturally or politically.

And in any case, Muslims aren’t monolithic and received’t essentially vote for a candidate simply because they share a faith, Muslims throughout the state say — he’ll need to win them over on the problems simply as with all voters.

Oz, whose mother and father emigrated from Turkey, calls himself a “secular Muslim” and has mentioned that the non secular aspect of Islam resonates with him greater than the non secular legislation aspect of it.

He’s additionally a part of a Republican Celebration that may be a political minority amongst Muslims and is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who earned the enmity of some Muslims for enacting a 2017 ban on travelers coming to the United States from 5 predominantly Muslim international locations.

For a Republican Celebration extra accustomed to electing white Christians, Oz’s faith is an odd bedfellow. Some Muslims say they’ve felt an animosity from the occasion up to now and Muslim candidates themselves have confronted attacks from GOP rivals.

In a quick interview, Oz mentioned it’s good for the USA’ management to indicate that it could possibly elect Muslims, and it’s good for Muslims to see certainly one of their very own elected to the U.S. Senate.

That sort of success would reinforce the message that “in the event you work onerous in America, it doesn’t matter what your heritage we treasure you,” Oz mentioned.

Oz received the GOP’s seven-way Might major in a contest so narrow it triggered a statewide recount and he now faces Democrat John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, within the Nov. 8 election. The competition within the presidential battleground state may assist decide partisan management of the Senate subsequent yr.

On the marketing campaign path, Oz follows nationwide GOP speaking factors, akin to making an attempt to pin rising inflation and gun violence on President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats.

Oz hardly ever discusses his faith and Fetterman hasn’t introduced it up — focusing as a substitute on making an attempt to color Oz as a super-wealthy, out-of-touch carpetbagger from New Jersey.

If Muslims don’t know that Oz is certainly one of them, “that’s due to him, actually,” mentioned Algassimu Bah, a Philadelphian and immigrant from Sierra Leone. “He hasn’t been speaking about his religion. We’ve not heard him.”

Imam Abdul Aziz Suraqah, of the Muslim Group Middle of Higher Pittsburgh, mentioned most members of the mosque most likely know of Oz’s religion, however appear no extra keen about Oz than some other candidate.

Imam Abdullah Pocius, who leads a mosque in Philadelphia, mentioned he doubts that almost all Muslims who vote know that Oz identifies as a Muslim.

“The typical American Muslim doesn’t know something about him, besides that he’s a TV physician,” Pocius mentioned.

Oz was born in the USA to Turkish mother and father, married an American who’s Christian and raised his kids as Christians.

In a 2013 interview for the PBS sequence “Faces of America,” Oz mentioned his religion, saying that, whereas rising up, he turned desirous about Sufism, a mystical type of Islam that emphasizes somebody’s direct connection to God.

Oz described it as “non secular.”

Sufism is, nonetheless, usually considered negatively by orthodox Muslims, who emphasize strictly following a set of spiritual legal guidelines, mentioned Khalid A.Y. Blankinship, a Muslim and professor of faith at Temple College in Philadelphia.

As well as, Muslims in the USA are numerous — they embody transformed People and immigrants from Asia, Africa and Europe — and plenty of would possibly see Oz’s Turkish heritage as extra significant to him than Islam, Blankinship mentioned.

In the case of voting, occasion loyalty will override faith for the overwhelming majority of Muslims, Blankinship mentioned.

“Most individuals wouldn’t consider supporting him simply because he’s a Muslim,” Blankinship mentioned. “And they’d take a look at what’s he saying, what are his politics, what’s his place going to be.”

Suraqah mentioned he tries to show Muslims to be principled of their voting selections and to keep away from supporting candidates “simply because they communicate properly to the Muslim group” or attraction to them as fellow Muslims.

Nonetheless, it’s important — and noteworthy — {that a} main political occasion has nominated a Muslim for a Senate seat, Muslims say.

However galvanizing Pennsylvania’s Muslim group might need solely a slight impact on the election.

Estimates recommend that Muslims are 1% to 2% of the state’s voters and Pew Analysis Middle estimated in 2017 that two-thirds of American Muslims recognized as Democrats, or leaned that means.

That might additional isolate Oz from many Muslim voters.

“It’s sophisticated as a result of most Muslims are registered Democrats,” mentioned Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage, a nationwide Muslim political advocacy group. “Whereas being a Muslim is sweet and it’s good, it’s not enough and in some instances it doesn’t matter what your religion is if you’re not on the proper aspect of the problems.”

Salima Suswell, Emgage’s government director in Pennsylvania, mentioned she turned conscious that Oz is a Muslim quickly after he launched his marketing campaign.

However, Suswell mentioned his non secular beliefs don’t issue into her determination on the polls and that the problems Muslims care about are usually not restricted to “stereotypical ‘Muslim points.’”

“We all know that simply because someone proclaims to be part of our non secular group, it doesn’t imply that they symbolize our values,” she mentioned.

Points apart, it’s an issue that Oz doesn’t communicate out towards Trump as a supply of Islamophobia and hate, Alzayat mentioned.

Dr. Nadeem Iqbal, a Pittsburgh-area radiologist who was initially born in Pakistan, mentioned he is perhaps tempted to vote for a Muslim candidate.

However Iqbal questioned if or how Oz practices the faith and he can’t settle for Oz’s ties to Trump, who he views as racist, anti-Muslim and empowering America’s extremist and racist fringes.

“And personally,” Iqbal mentioned, “I can’t vote for anybody endorsed by Donald Trump.”


Related Press author Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia contributed to this report.


Observe Marc Levy on Twitter at

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