In response to a series of media reports regarding the American Muslim Taskforce's decision on the endorsement of a candidate for the 2004 Presidential election, MPAC has decided to articulate its position on the issue. The following is the reasoning of the Board of Directors of the Muslim Public Affairs Council on our decision for non-endorsement.
In 2000, the American Muslim Political Coordinating Council, comprised of four major organizations, endorsed George W. Bush for President. The criteria for the endorsement were opposition to using secret evidence in trials and providing access to the Muslim community to government. For the 2004 Presidential Race, 10 Muslim organizations formed the American Muslim Taskforce (AMT), a group organized to advocate for civil rights and access to government through the electoral process. AMT is led by the experienced stewardship of Dr. Agha Saeed, who has dedicated his time and efforts to marshal the civil rights of American Muslims. In pursuit of increased dialogue among Muslim organizations, MPAC worked with AMT while choosing not to be a member of the umbrella group.
President Bush's appointments of neo-conservatives have raised questions on the direction of our country and the deterioration of civil liberties. These actions have overshadowed the positive statements he has made about Islam, especially during the sensitive moments immediately after 9/11. Frozen assets of American Muslim charities have been consumed by legal and administrative costs at the expense of the donors' First Amendment right to freely practice the fifth pillar of Islam, zakat (charity). We are disappointed in the performance of the Bush Administration, and polls suggest that American Muslims are ready to support the challenger, Senator John Kerry, for President.
Our response to those polls, however, should not be a reactionary blank check endorsement for the Senator from Massachusetts. We believe that he should have demonstrated a personal interest in American Muslim issues to receive such a gesture of confidence. At the very least, he should have met with Muslim communities in battleground states, such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida. Or, he should have met with American Muslim community leaders. Instead, Senator Kerry chose to avoid us, probably out of political calculation that right-wing pundits would pounce on him for being seen with Muslims. In contrast, Governor Jean Shaheen and Senator Ted Kennedy, whose leadership in addressing issues of importance to our communities should be commended, met with Muslim community leaders. We also thank those staffers in the Kerry campaign who reached out to American Muslim organizations and lobbied for courting our vote.
A major factor in our decision is that we simply don't know what the Senator thinks about issues of concern to the American Muslim community. To endorse someone we have never met is reckless. We are, therefore, going to continue to provide analysis of the distinctions between President Bush and Senator Kerry. We also expect from our community an 80% voter turnout. Based on the recent political history of American Muslims, that goal is achievable, and exit polls will determine in whose favor the American Muslim community voted. An endorsement is far too important to give away without delivering solid promises to the community that their interests will be of paramount importance to the next President. Leaders of other religious and ethnic communities throughout our country do not endorse unless they receive such promises. We should not be any different.
The role of American Muslim leadership is not to simply amplify the will of the popular vote; rather, it is to encourage elected officials to engage with American Muslims on a variety of levels. The popular vote is political engagement at the popular level. Engaging with the voters as a collective group is accomplished by meeting with community leaders. While polls indicate that Kerry will get the vast majority of American Muslim votes, it is the candidates' responsibility to demonstrate their interest and commitment to the community. As marshals of the American Muslim interest, we cannot report that Senator Kerry has been willing to engage with American Muslims in a substantive manner and, therefore, we cannot in good conscience offer him our endorsement.
We trust the political judgment and maturity of American Muslim voters. In this election, Muslim voters must vote their conscience based on what is best for themselves, their communities and their country. Our decision not to endorse a candidate in the 2004 Presidential election must not be viewed as a directive for American Muslims to reconsider their decision. Rather it is a reminder that although candidates are willing to take our votes, they are not yet willing to announce such to the country.
Is Kerry God sent savior? The answer is a definite NO, but he promised a no draft, he is against tax cut for the rich, job export & the violation of the civil rights. Remember that the next President may end up nominating three Supreme Court justices who would be ultra conservatives if Bush wins.
Forget about same sex marriage no body is going to force you to do so or the gays teaching your children they are already doing so, but there are laws that protects your children. Remember that the teacher who raped her 13 yrs. old student was not gay at all she was a heterosexual!
Now the choices are yours vote Bush, Nader or decide to stay home & blame yourself later. You have to wait for Hillary Clinton whom there is no love lost between her & the Arabs or an extremist Republican.
Supporting Kerry now would give you an advantage comes 2008 where the fight will be fierce for votes and then you may exercise your affluence.
Muslims should start from grass root level & up from the local candidates. Cultivate ties with your community at large; go out of your way to attract supporters to the common causes that also includes yours. Your effort shouldn't be seasonal every 4 years or so but should be continuous.
However at the same MPAC made it very clear that they just can't simply "endorse" Kerry without him making any efforts towards personally addressing American Muslims' issues.
Meaning, if Kerry wants our Muslim Organization's "formal Approval", then he needs to earn it, just like he had to strive hard for approval with other minorities groups in this country.
Nothing should be given "for Free", otherwise we as Muslims will always be taken for granted by both the parties.
However, MPAC is at the same time being very responsible, and encouraging the American Muslims' to vote for the candidate who is in the best interest for the Muslims in US. This is a "tacit" approval of Kerry, because majority of Muslims believe that Kerry is a lesser of evil than Bush.
OVERALL: I congratulate MPAC and its leaders for their balanced approach. MPAC is safe-gaurding short term and LONG-Term Political interests of American Muslims and the Muslims/non-Muslims affected by US adminstation policies worldwide.
This was not wise. We need to encourage our community to vote for the candidate who will at least stop adding fuel into this fire of war and hatred. It is not about us anymore. We can't be selfish about whether he met with us or not, it is about how much damage can be prevented in the 4 coming years.