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Senior members of Joe Biden's administration will meet Arab and Muslim-American leaders in Michigan for a “real honest dialogue”, the White House announced on Wednesday, as the President's team frets about dwindling support from a normally Democrat-leaning voting bloc that is furious over his handling of the Israel-Gaza war.
Local media reported that the meeting is scheduled for Thursday and set to include White House liaison to American Muslim Communities Mazen Basrawi, as well as principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer and USAID head Samantha Power, among other senior officials.
One source told The National that Thursday's meeting will include Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and Osama Siblani, the publisher of The Arab American News.
The meeting comes amid intense anger among Arab and Muslim Americans as well as in Mr Biden's own Democratic Party over his staunch support for Israel in a war that has killed more than 27,700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, since October 7.
“This is a continuation of conversations that they've been having with the Muslim and Arab communities and other communities like the Jewish-American community as well,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told journalists aboard Air Force One.
“We're going to listen and hear what leaders of that community have to say.
“We are open to that having a real honest dialogue.”
Michigan is home to one of the largest Arab and Muslim-American populations in the US. It is also a critical battleground state and a must-win for Mr Biden, who is running for re-election.
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Late last month, Mr Hammoud, a Democrat, as well as other leaders refused to meet Mr Biden's campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who had reached out to set up a round-table.
Another source said that members of the Arab American Political Action Committee who will be attending the meeting would be convening on Wednesday to discuss the “messaging”. An immediate ceasefire in Gaza remains the top demand, the source said.
“The community sentiment is very anti the Biden administration overall,” the source added. “And I think the message is already very clear: people want a ceasefire.”
In 2020, Muslim and Arab Americans came out in large numbers in support of Mr Biden, who vowed to overturn the legacy of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
But since Israel's war on Gaza began on October 7, support for him has waned.
Residents say they resent Mr Biden's unbalanced stance on Israel, which has included opposing a ceasefire, bypassing Congress to approve military weapons sales, repeating an unverified claim that Hamas beheaded Israeli babies and playing down the number of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza.
His policies have earned him the nickname among his critics of “Genocide Joe”.
Residents of Dearborn and the wider Wayne County have been rallying around a campaign to “Abandon Biden” – an effort to ensure he does not win a second term in office.
On Tuesday, more than 30 elected officials in Michigan signed a letter pledging to check “uncommitted” on their ballots in the Democratic primaries, which will be held on February 27.
Records show that Michigan – a state Mr Biden won by 154,000 votes in 2020 – is home to about 200,000 Muslim voters and 300,000 people who claim ancestry from the Middle East and North Africa region.
Anger only intensified this week when The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece referring to Dearborn as “America's jihad capital”.
In response, the city's mayor announced increased security at mosques and other places of worship.
“There's more desperation now,” another source told The National.
“They've realised their initial tactic didn't work and then this Wall Street Journal article came out and they're trying to be on the right side of that.
“So they're going to throw what they can at the wall and see what sticks.”