This data was last updated on 14 August 2020.
History: The story of the Justice Education Technology Political Advocacy Center, which goes by the sleek acronym Jetpac Inc., is intimately intertwined with the political career of Nadeem Mazen. Born and raised in the greater Boston area, a graduate of MIT, and a business entrepreneur, Mazen first ran for Cambridge City Councilor in 2013 and was elected by a narrow margin of 6 votes. His second time running in 2015, he won by a landslide. Mazen is the first Muslim to have been elected to office in Massachusetts. After becoming city councilor, Mazen and his former campaign manager Shaun Kennedy founded Jetpac in order to encourage and assist Muslims—and other minorities who are underrepresented in politics—in running for office. For the first two years, Jetpac focused on creating a strong foundation for the organization by building up a donor base, creating curricula, and putting together a grassroots network of political mentors. In January 2017, immediately following the first iteration of President Donald Trump’s immigration order limiting travel from six Muslim-majority countries, Mazen and Kennedy put out a nationwide call encouraging Muslims to run for office. Jetpac has since taken on one hundred Muslims interested in running for office. Jetpac has also trained many more Muslims and minorities to be community organizers. In early July 2017 Jetpac’s Facebook page was hit by a coordinated cyberattack. Hundreds of comments overtook Jetpac’s social media, espousing hateful messages to members of Jetpac and to Muslims more generally, including: “You should be shot for treason! Then hung upside down from a light post in the middle of town and gutted like a pig, just the way we saw on the streets during desert storm.” Kennedy turned around this outpouring of hate into an opportunity to increase awareness about anti-Muslim bigotry. He posted about the incident on Jetpac’s Facebook page and used the platform to raise $1,800.
Description: Embedded in Jetpac’s acronym is its tripartite mission. The first and most important part of Jetpac’s model is seeking “Justice” by helping minorities win better representation. As Mazen points out, American Muslims make up one per cent of the population of the United Sates, but they are barely represented in elected office. People who want to go through Jetpac’s training process contact the organization and submit a written application. Of the application process, Mazen says: “We accept 40% of applicants, vetting for altruism and basic positions like a commitment to service. We don’t vet for partisanship, we look for their seriousness and ability to divorce ego from the run.” Accepted applicants then go through a curriculum tutoring model and receive one-on-one training with Kennedy. The political candidates do not receive follow up services after their training, but they take with them the knowledge that they have gained from Jetpac and the contacts that they have made along the way, including valuable community activists and mentors.
According to Mazen, all Muslims who run for office should expect to be targeted on the basis of their faith. Mazen understands that there is a natural fear of being attacked, not just for one’s own reputation but also because it can then ward off potential donors and other collaborators who are afraid of the bad publicity. Jetpac helps Muslim candidates prepare for this eventuality by taking control of their narrative and acting as proactively as possible. Mazen believes that many Muslims who run for office do so out of a sense of duty, and are therefore willing to make the sacrifice of having their name slandered by the alt-right. Mazen personally draws strength from the Islamic concept of “fard kifayah,” which holds that when there is a community need that is not being fulfilled, it is incumbent on the individual to fulfill the duty. In addition to focusing on justice, Jetpac also seeks to innovate in education and technology. The education component of Jetpac’s model is an AP-accredited high school curricula that teaches about the history of political activism. Jetpac also seeks to educate through community engagement seminars and a variety of trainings. In terms of technology, Jetpac utilizes social media platforms to further its message and engage in community building. Jetpac hopes to use technology more in the future by creating short informative videos that are easily shareable, which will help to spread helpful information relevant to the organization’s mission on a variety of topics.
Looking Forward: Jetpac aims to continue to support grassroots efforts, while also exploring opportunities to influence the American political landscape on a larger scale. In the next few years, Jetpac plans to continue to recruit and train Muslims to run for political office. The group will also continue to collaborate with other Muslim civil advocacy groups such as CAIR to combat existing Islamophobia and to create more educational opportunities to mitigate Islamophobia in future generations. Jetpac also plans to start a Political Action Committee in order to fundraise money in larger amounts to support its efforts. According to Mazen, Jetpac’s biggest struggle is the same struggle that plagues all of America, and it is the need to fight against the following statement: “Politics is to blame and doesn’t work for people.” Mazen believes that, “Our own malaise is short-circuiting our ability to change the system,” and that electing new diverse, community-oriented faces to office can help to change America’s political landscape and pave the way towards a brighter future.