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American-Muslim Voters Host Debates for Wash. State Politicians

Benjamin Shabazz, speaking at an interfaith conference above, is an imam in Seattle who will be attending Monday night's debates. (CAIR-WA)
Benjamin Shabazz, speaking at an interfaith conference above, is an imam in Seattle who will be attending Monday night's debates. (CAIR-WA)
October 24, 2016

SEATTLE – Tonight the Council on American-Islamic Relations will host two debates in Redmond between Washington state politicians.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates, Erin Jones and state Rep. Chris Reykdal, will face off first, followed by incumbent Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her challenger, Tina Podlodowski.

Benjamin Shabazz, an imam in Seattle and a Vietnam War veteran, plans to attend the debate. He says he'd like to ask the candidates about a concern Ben Carson raised about Muslims during last year's Republican presidential debates.

“One of the things I would like to ask is what are the candidates' views on a Muslim becoming president, since we pay our taxes, have put our life on the line, and for the most part are upstanding citizens,” he states.

More than 250 Muslim voters will pack into the Muslim Association of Puget Sound for the debate, which will be televised and available to stream online.

The superintendent debate starts at 6:30 p.m. and the secretary of state debate starts at 7:30 p.m.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations looks for the candidates to address public schooling as well as how the candidates will represent the Muslim community.

Khalid Lites is a Muslim who grew up in the Evergreen state and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also hopes to find a seat at the debate.

He says it's important for people to understand that other faiths besides Christianity make up the fabric of this country.

“I feel that the military was respectful and respected me and my beliefs and I feel that the mass public needs to have awareness that there are other faiths that are contributing to this great society,” he states.

Shabazz says Islam teaches its followers to be good citizens to their nation.

“One of the things that's in the book, the Holy Quran, it says, 'Fulfill all obligations,'” he relates. “And so, every citizen, whatever country they're in, has an obligation not only to defend it, but to strive for the betterment of it, and to work together with like minded people.”

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA