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Tracking the American Muslim Vote in 2012 Election


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Democrats and Republicans are seen by many as the two sides of the same coin since both are aligned with the rich against the American people. For some Democrats are seen as a lesser evil. Gerald Celente says when confronted with the choice between the two evils, you don't vote for the lesser evil. "Lesser or greater, evil is evil."

However, the seven-million strong American Muslim community -- remained under siege since 9/11 tragedy - has decided to actively participate in the nation's political process in a bid to make its voice heard. Muslim community's political activism was reflected at the Democratic National Convention where the number of Muslim delegates had quadrupled since 2004. There were more than 100 Muslim delegates representing some 20 states at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September last. That's up from 25 delegates in 2004.

"The more than doubling of Muslim delegates at this year's Democratic National Convention is a direct result of their hard work and grassroots organizing within the Democratic Party," according to the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Government Affairs Coordinator Robert McCaw. "It is also a sign of the American Muslim community's growing civic engagement and acceptance in the Democratic Party."

On August 22, 2012, the CAIR announced the formation of a national partnership with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to coordinate voter empowerment and election activities. The two national organizations pledged to work together on hosting voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, phone banks, town hall meetings, and candidate forums.

The same day the CAIR released a 22-page Muslim voter registration toolkit and state-specific voting guides as part of its ongoing campaign to empower Muslims and increase their political capacity and presence in the 2012 elections. The voting guide emphasized:

"Voting is the civic duty of every eligible United States citizen and is an exercise of our constitutional rights. Registering to vote is the process by which a citizen affirms their legal right and eligibility within the state of their residence to participate in local, county, state, and federal elections. It is important for American Muslims to register to vote and participate in the political process because it is an expression of our political rights and ability to impact the decisions of elected officials."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also issued a 2012 Presidential Voter Guide, providing general information about the election such as candidate positions and biographies. "CAIR seeks to educate Muslim voters on candidate positions and encourages Muslims to support candidates whose positions they agree with," the guide said adding: "The 2012 election cycle presents the American Muslim community with an important opportunity to increase its political capacity and presence. With large concentrations of Muslim voters in key swingstates such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia the American Muslim population has the potential to be influential in determining who will be the next President of the United States."

Another leading civil advocacy organization, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) also issued a 32-page Election Kit - My Faith. My Vote. My Future -- to encourage and actively engage American Muslims in the upcoming elections.

In order to learn more about the issues American Muslims care about most during this election year, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, (MPAC) conducted an online survey this spring. The survey, which ran from May 22 through June 4, sought to understand American Muslims' investment and involvement in civic activities and political issues. As part of the survey, we asked American Muslims to rate the top 10 issues that will determine their vote this year.

The MPAC found that the main issues American Muslims care about are (in order of importance):

1. Immigration 2. The Environment 3. Taxes and the Federal Budget 4. National Security 5. Foreign Aid 6. Social Safety Programs 7. Social Issues 8. Medicaid/Medicare 9. Foreign Policy Toward South Asia 10. Religious Freedom

Muslims disappointed

Ironically, there has been little effort to court Muslim voters this election year. In the 2008 election the McCain campaign basically ignored American Muslims while the Obama campaign had a special outreach coordinator that reached out to the Arab-American community as well as the American-Muslim communities. But this election season there has not been the same kind of outreach from the Obama campaign, and no word from the Mitt Romney campaign. Muslim Americans perceive Mitt Romney as the more anti-Islamic candidate due to his irresponsible comments regarding sensitive Middle Eastern issues, including the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. American Muslims were also disappointed with the Republican Party when its convention adopted an amendment to their platform supporting a ban on foreign law (read Sharia). The so-called anti-Sharia legislation has become another tool to foment hatred against Islam and Muslims. At the same time many Republican leaders continued rhetoric against Islam.

The Democrats' inclusion of support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in their official party platform may have disillusioned some Muslim voters, who were already critical of Obama's failure to properly address the discrimination their community has faced. Four years ago, Obama enjoyed overwhelming support from Muslim voters -- 89 percent Muslims voted for him. There is currently no polling data indicating the percentage that intends to vote for Obama this November, but politically active community members agree that enthusiasm for his candidacy has waned. In particular, many say they are disappointed by the way Obama has shied away from addressing an apparent rise in Islamophobia spreading throughout the United States.

However, despite these misgivings American Muslims are likely to vote for President Obama next month, says Princeton political science professor Amaney Jamal. "Unfortunately, Obama has exhibited little public defense of Muslim-Americans," Jamal said earlier this month. "When people allege that Obama is Muslim, the comment from the White House is "no, no, he's Christian." But it doesn't go that little extra step and ask, so what if he was Muslim?"

"The Muslim-American community has bought into the idea that they are a liability to the Democratic Party," Jamal said. "No one is calling out Obama and the political elite in this country because they do not want to hurt his chances of winning this November."

The Muslim swing vote in 2012 election

The American Muslim minority community has become a more important player on the political landscape, especially in key swing states, says a report titled Engaging American Muslims: Political Trends and Attitudes released in April last by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

According to Farid Senzai, author of the report, although it is true that American Muslims constitute a small percentage of the national population, they are concentrated in key swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida. "Despite being very diverse and far from monolithic, this constituency is growing faster than any other religious community and has become increasingly visible and sophisticated in its political engagement. Republicans who found the Muslim community an easy target in the primaries may find themselves in trouble in the states that may determine the winner of the election."

In an OpEd in New York Times, Farid Senzai, pointed out that as the 2012 presidential election picks up steam, Republican candidates find it tempting and beneficial to bash Muslims as a way to attract voters. He went on to say: "In the wake of the 2010 midterm elections, "Americans are learning what Europeans have known for years: Islam-bashing wins votes," as the journalist Michael Scott Moore wrote that last November. At the time, many of the 85 new Republican House members buoyed by the surging Tea Party movement found the political virtues of anti-Muslim rhetoric an easy way to prove their mettle to the surging conservative base.

While an anti-Muslim strategy may have worked in the past, it is risky because many agree that the outcome of the 2012 presidential election will probably be determined in no more than twelve states, Senzai warned and added that these are the same states where minority groups, including American Muslims, are likely to play a decisive role.

Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
OpEd News


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