Interpreting the Muslim Vote - Another Perspective
In the post 9/11 context, the American Muslim bloc vote in 2004 bears global significance for three reasons: 1) it tested the capacity of American Muslims to participate and succeed in a democratic system, 2) it enabled American Muslims to create common cause with like-minded fellow Americans, and 3) it measured the extent to which the United States is capable and willing to treat its religious minorities fairly and equitably.
The news of the qualified endorsement of the Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a coalition of the ten national Muslim organizations, was carried internationally, notably in the Muslim and Arab world.
Leaders of major American Muslim organizations contend that elections provide opportunities for agenda setting, coalition building, skills-formation, and negotiated accommodation of minority interests. Muslims have made progress in each area, though not at the same level of success.
According to one post election survey, 21 per cent of the Muslims voting in the Election 2004 were first-time voters. This is consistent with the data collected by University of Maryland Researcher James Gimpel and others.
The highest-ever Muslim vote, pivoted around AMT's efforts, resulted from a relentless yearlong drive to mobilize the community through town hall meetings, conventions, and voter education workshops across the 50 states.
The efficacy of these town hall meetings prompted the New York State-based Observer-Dispatch on April 17 to comment editorially: "No-shows at the ballot box might take a lesson from Muslim-Americans, who are stepping up efforts to assume an active role in the nation's political process."
This year, the American Muslims used the electoral process to reorganize themselves along democratic lines by building a bottom-up, multi-institutional, decision-making mechanism.
A Zogby poll commissioned by the Georgetown University and released on October 19, 2004, indicated that 81 per cent American Muslims supported AMT Election Plan including its "Civil Rights Plus Agenda" which emphasizes civil and human rights for all, domestic issues of public good and general welfare, global peace with justice, prevention of war, and U.S. relations with the Muslim world.
Twenty-five percent of those responding to the Zogby poll said they had been profiled, 40 per cent said they had personally experienced discrimination, and 57 percent said they knew someone who had been discriminated against. Yet, 90 percent favored remaining politically involved.
The strongest support for Muslim political unity and the AMT came from African-American, African and Arab Muslims," the poll documented.
This strong support from African American Muslims for AMT is, in part, a result of healing and bridge building by both indigenous as well as immigrant Muslim organizations. In 2000 these groups were unable to fashion a common approach to elections.
The rectification was achieved by a number of steps: recognizing mistakes of the past, instituting confidence building measures, setting up a democratic decision-making process, and enabling the grassroots to partake in the decision-making process.
Today, indigenous Muslims lead three organizations within the AMT. Moreover, most organizations include indigenous and immigrant Muslims in leadership positions.
In his book Silent No More, former Congressman Paul Findley recorded 72 percent Muslims vote for George W. Bush. According to a number of post election surveys, 93 per cent of Muslims voted as a bloc in 2004.
The data below for all groups except Muslims is taken from the National Election Pool created by six major news organizations. The Muslim data was collected by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) in two separate community surveys.
Muslim Vote 93%
Black Vote 89%
Evangelical Vote 78%
Jewish Vote 78%
Veterans Vote 57%
Hispanic Vote 55%
Catholic Vote 52%
The Zogby poll conducted several weeks before the elections had recorded that 76 percent of Muslims intended to vote for Sen. John Kerry. The AMT endorsement persuaded most Muslims who were undecided or Nader supporters to join the bloc vote.
By and large the election results show that the American Muslim community has made some fundamental choices: it has rejected the view of passive citizenship in favor of a vibrant and dynamic role; it has declined to support a third party presidential candidate, yet it has embraced important questions raised by the third parties.
A recent survey of community leaders, intellectual, thinkers and writers, shows three new trends: 1) new-found commitment to health care, education, inner city development and affordable housing; 2) greater understanding and appreciation of the role civic organizations, such as ACLU and NAACP, and coalition-building; and 3) adoption of a multiparty strategy, which stipulates support for candidates and issues instead of parties.
Many Green, Libertarian, Independent and Reform party candidates were endorsed and supported at the city and state levels.
Voting for candidates who support civil rights for all remains the essence of the multiparty strategy. AMT Chair Agha Saeed said: "We will mainstream opposition to oppression by building a nationwide civil rights coalition. Only such a coalition can restore America to its ideals and principles. The whole world is watching".
(For more information about the Muslim vote, visit www.AmericanMuslimVoter.Net)
Lisette B. Poole, a freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay area, also lecturers at CSUH. Tahir Ali is the author of Muslim Vote: Counts and Recounts.
Topics: Government And Politics
I disagree with you that voting will not affect a change for Muslims in America. That to me is a defeatist attitude. Even when defeated, my heart soul tell me that I can start all over again, and prepare myself for the next time to win. Every mistake has it's lessons. Something to learn from. Talking about fixing ourselves is one thing, but going about implementing those changes into your life are what make a difference. Taking a defeatist attitude and simply saying that Muslims in America will fail no matter if htey vote Democrat or Republican is like saying Bull, come hit me.
I think Muslims in America can become very good bull fighters, :-D j/k. There is much hope for
Islam in America, and Muslims themselves will benefit because they want to work with other communities, not become isolated from their neighbours in their communities by basically living in cacoons, what do ya think? We can't hibernate forever you know. The world is out there for us to know, not to ignore.
I advice muslims in US to benefit from the freedom they got and come together to build a true muslim community. following the noise of elections and the US game is not gonna do that much to the american muslims.
how about muslims live together and help each one the other to not lie not steal and not cheat? how about make together a county where anyone who visite discover the true meaning of Islam? the muslims are not that organized to be able to understand, participate and be effective in the US politics... voting democrat or republican wll change nothing in the reality of America now.