MPower Change

11 01 18
  • Name: Mpower Change
  • Mission: Online organising platform to build grassroots Muslim power while advancing social justice causes.
  • Size: Staff < 10
  • Location: New York, USA
  • Key personnel: Founders – Linda Sarsour, Mark Crain, Dustin Craun; Campaign Director – Mohammad Khan


Mpower Change is a grassroots online organising platform for Muslims, created as a response to anti-Muslim rhetoric heard across the US.

It targets Islamophobic policies and practices through digital campaigns, petitions and mobilising Muslim communities across the US. It also amplifies local initiatives through its large mailing list and heavy social media presence.


“A lot of policies on national and local level specifically target Muslim communities,” says Mohammad Khan, campaign director for Mpower Change.

For American Muslims, 9/11 was a turning point. It marked an increase in hate, prejudice and political rhetoric used against them while also being a motivating factor for many activists.

Before working for Mpower Change, Mohammad Khan worked in politics. He worked on both city and state-level electoral campaigns and realised there was severe lack of engagement between politicians and the Muslim community.

“A lot of elected officials didn’t know or prioritise doing outreach to these communities, which was shocking, especially in a place like the New York metro area where around a million Muslims live,” says Mohammad.

When a group of prominent activists, Linda Sarsour, Mark Crane and Dustin Krohn, decided to create the first online organising platform for Muslim communities, Mohammad became the first employee.


“When working on campaigns I was exposed to really brilliant digital campaigners and it showed me how digital campaigning can really augment and amplify a message. Even if you have a very small team, you can have a very big digital footprint,” says Mohammad.

The aim of Mpower Change is to build the organising capacity of local and national Muslim organisations across the US while also rapidly responding to political change affecting the Muslim community.

The organisation has already built a six-figure mailing list and Mohammad says it sometimes feels like running a small media company.

Since its inception in 2016, Mpower Change has been recruiting allies both within the Muslim community, and without, to change narratives.

“Even if we don’t achieve the campaign outcome we wanted, we still consider it a success if we can shift the narrative and get people to adopt a certain frame,” says Mohammad.

Courtesy of Mpower Change

One campaign goal was combating the travel ban President Donald Trump had passed against several Muslim majority countries. While Mohammad says they can’t take sole credit for the opposition, Mpower Change campaigned against it and very clearly referred to it as a “Muslim ban”.

“The opposition replied that this was not a Muslim ban, but even negating a frame reinforces it,” says Mohammad.

Another campaign Mpower Change has worked on was mobilising Muslims Against Southwest Airlines last year after a string of Islamophobic incidents (including Southwest removing a man from a plane after he spoke on his phone in Arabic and said “Insh-Allah”, meaning God willing).

Using a media campaign to raise awareness over blatant racial profiling and mobilising people through a petition and social media, Mpower Change was able to convey the outrage Muslims and others left into action.

Following the campaign, Southwest Airlines contacted Mohammad and promised change.


“During the presidential campaigns we were responding to rhetoric from both sides [with] Major party candidates using Muslims like a political football and pursuing very negative framing of Muslim communities,” says Mohammad.

Since its inception, Mpower Change has been more focused on reacting rather than creating proactive campaigns.

Mohammad says the amount of negative rhetoric across the political spectrum has kept them busy but he aims to change this in the future as the organisation grows.

The main difficulty Mpower Change faces now, however, is relating to local organisations and campaigns.

Courtesy of Mpower Change

Mohammad says they can get pushback when they get involved locally, with people protective of their communities and work.

“We think we’re bringing great value to the campaign with our national outlook and big clout on social media but that’s not how it’s always seen. The challenge is getting involved with local campaigns without having buy-in from the local communities,” says Mohammad.

Mohammad is aware they cannot only reply on the digital medium to win campaigns but connecting with the local community is not always easy, especially when local politics get involved.

When Nabra Hassanen, a teenager leaving a mosque in Virginia during Ramadan, was kidnapped and murdered, Mpower Change was one of the many national organisations pushing for a deeper investigation after the police ruled it wasn’t a hate crime.

“Our position was to get them to investigate further. If it’s not a hate crime, it’s not a hate crime but the police said it wasn’t before they had even identified the suspect,” says Mohammad.

However, community leaders were reluctant to push the police on the investigation. Mohammad believes they were reluctant to damage the pre-existing relationship between the police department and the Muslim community, but Mpower Change decided to respect the decision and backed off.

As a result, the organisation slowed down its pace and focused on building relationships when it came to local communities, “so that if something happens, we’re not just a national organisation parachuting in but have an existing relationship”.

Mohammad says measuring how much trust has been gained with local partners is difficult, as is how much a narrative has shifted. Mpower Change uses digital metrics to track the success of its campaigns.

“The best way we’ve managed is putting out a certain framing and measuring how much engagement we get online,” says Mohammad.

Moving forwards

“Trump taking office was part of a turning point, people realised that the way major parties in this country are discussing Muslims is very wrong and needs to change,” says Mohammad.

He adds that he was pleasantly surprised by how many non-Muslim allies they have made.

A possible reason for that is the issues Mpower Change tackles. It focuses not only on issues traditionally seen as ‘Muslim-related’ such as national security and extremism but also campaigns on issues such as healthcare for Americans and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Courtesy of Mpower Change

“We position ourselves as an intersectional organisation and part of a broader movement for social justice – people see that and respect us,” says Mohammad.

“We push the narrative that anti-Muslim hatred is the work of anyone who has a vision for justice.

“Likewise, fighting to prevent police killing or getting a liveable minimum wage is something that all Muslims who are pursuing social justice should be interested in.”


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