Election 2008 and Muslims

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Elections, Government And Politics Channel: Opinion Views: 3963
3963

In 2000, when we overwhelmingly voted for George W. Bush we told ourselves that come 2004 election and we would be better organized. 2004 came and went, and after being ignored by almost every presidential candidate, we vowed to work for a better Muslim participation in 2008. We are now in 2008 and there is not much out in public to convince us that we could be effective in the forthcoming elections. 

Individually, our participation is no less than other citizens of the country. Some 60 percent of our community members vote regularly and our contribution to candidates also runs into millions. Yet, our voice in electoral politics as a community and as an effective component of the American pluralism is missing big time. The blame is not on political parties or their representatives. We ourselves are responsible for this situation. Not many of us want to spare the time for political work at the grass root level. Not many of us are willing to actively join the political parties under this or that pretext and many of us are not convinced theologically that democracy is the best of the worst types of political institutions that humanity has experimented with.

When I use the word "we," I mean Muslims by and large as I am aware of the fact that the participation of African-American Muslims in the electoral process is much better than Muslims of immigrant backgrounds. African-American Muslims have been effective in not only getting two of their leaders elected to congress but also in having a substantial number of their activists risen to important political positions at various state and city levels. The lack of meaningful coordination and cooperation among these two segments of the Muslim community has obviously created conditions for the ineffectiveness of Muslims in the electoral process.

Muslims have three major approaches in electoral politics. A substantial number of Muslims are not convinced about the effectiveness of our particular model of democracy and believe that the laws of God are more just in establishing a democratic state. They also believe that only a Caliphate type of government can truly represent the Creator on earth. Big on words and short on substance, this group is still dealing with its logical inconsistencies in defining its objectives. It does not explain how it would select or elect its leaders and who would have the authority to implement and interpret the Quranic principles. Its literature on these issues is almost non-existent.

The second group believes that Muslims must participate in the electoral process as part of their religious obligation. Muslims cannot be unconcerned with their surroundings, hence, they must engage with other segments of the society actively on all issues and matters. Within this category are two sub-groups; one believes in the creation of a Muslim political party to impact the electoral politics and the other believes in the formation of a voting bloc to influence the election outcome.

A third group argues that Muslims should get involved in electoral politics individually. They should become part of the existing political parties and use their presence in those parties to promote an agenda that in their view might serve Muslim interests. All these groups assume that Muslims are a well organized and monolith community with a clear agenda and defined objectives. They often ignore the divisions that exist among Muslims on horizontal and vertical lines. Everything that can divide people divides Muslims too. Secondly, they also ignore the fact that there is hardly any debate among Muslims or their organizations or leaders on issues that concern the community and the country. For instance, take the recent Papal visit to the United States.

Muslim organizations were divided on the subject of meeting with the pope. Rather than discussing the issue beforehand to develop an intelligent and effective stand, the leadership decided to take the decision before even discussing it with their peers, and those who are concerned about the issues. There was hardly any khutbah given on the subject in any Islamic center anywhere in the country. Those Muslims who sometimes read newspapers learned about the Muslim position through the reported news in secular media. No, Muslim media ever received any news item about the issue. The lack of debate among Muslims create apathetic conditions among the masses rendering all talks about political participation meaningless.

Additionally, they ignore the objective conditions that exist on the ground. None in the Muslim community has accurate information about Muslim voters. To be more precise, not many Muslim communities have any data about Muslims living in their vicinities. It is almost impossible to talk about Muslim political activities without having any data of any sort. The presence of all these realities is not an excuse not to do anything for the future. Perhaps, a humble beginning can be made in terms of developing tools to collect accurate data about Muslim voters in each state, subdivided in congressional and assembly districts with further subdivisions at precinct levels. This is not an easy task. The available data in county voters list is not very helpful as there are hundreds of Muslims names that do not fit the general profile.

However, we must begin somewhere as a community. We can no longer live on slogans and false figures. We have to make determined efforts to collect data about our electoral presence in each congressional district. We can initiate the process if we have dedicated people who may assume responsibilities to be the lead person in this respect. There are many who would like to work on this project, yet there are effectively no institutions or organizations that are willing to undertake the work. On the contrary, many Muslim groups and leaders believe that by simply making statements that "Muslims are six millions in America," and that they can attract the attention of national political leaders. We also have to initiate debates among us on issues that concern the community and country. So far, we have remained only a foreign policy dominated community. We have not spoken on issues such as education, environment, crimes, violence, economy, and health insurance. We have not contributed anything substantial to the existing debate on the issues. If we look at the themes of the major conventions and conferences organized by Muslims, we hardly find anything substantial on national issues. The lack of any discussion on national issues in the Muslim community delivers a negative message to the rest of the country. Thus, at each level, we must always engage ourselves with groups who are concerned with domestic issues. We do not have to always come up with something unique and different. We can fulfill this role in our individual or collective capacity.

We also have to encourage our women and youth to get involved in the political arena by volunteering work for various offices at various levels. They can work as interns in offices at the city, state and congressional level.

However, for doing all the above, we need an effective organization. Either an existing organization should come forward to take a fresh initiative or a new organization is set up to do the job.  We need to follow the road of civic participation, and start the journey by taking the first steps on this epic and long journey towards political inclusion and a more democratic nation.

At the initial stage let those who are interested in seeing Muslims become effective in electoral process should exchange ideas through e mails. 

I can offer to coordinate these efforts. My e mail address is [email protected]

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is Editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic society of Nevada, Las Vegas and acting president of the Muslim Council of America, a Washington-based newly formed groups of Muslim activists


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Elections, Government And Politics  Channel: Opinion
Views: 3963

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Older Comments:
ZUBADHA MOOLA FROM UNITED STATES said:
I have been in this country for several years an I live in Shawnee,Oklahoma. I agree with you about the lack of muslims getting together or even acknowledging you.I have attempted to get something started in this community i.e.jamath kanna without much success an yet I know there are plenty muslims here.
They seem to blame alot of things on 911 but I see noone making a change.
thanks
2008-06-14

MOHAMMAD SYED FROM USA said:
Dr. Abdullah's excellent article is a reminder to Muslims to play their role in all aspects of their lives. Politicians and elected officers make laws that govern us. Muslims must actively participate in the politcal process to elect worthy candidates.

Mohammad
2008-06-10

IMRAN FROM USA said:
I wrote some very relevant comments and they got censored.

If you are so worried about the truth shame on you and shame on those who allow Dr. Abdullah to write his third rate articles.

I quote:

They also believe that only a Caliphate type of government can truly represent the Creator on earth. Big on words and short on substance,

UNQUOTE:

May ALLAH (SWT) punish those who allowed such statments to be published and may he severly punish Dr. Abdullah for mocking what was established by the HOLY Prophet (PBUH) and those who succeeded him (PBUH).

You people are taking "moderation" of Islam to the extreme.
2008-06-09

IMRAN FROM USA said:
Re: Big on words and short on substance, this group is still dealing with its logical inconsistencies in defining its objectives. It does not explain how it would select or elect its leaders and who would have the authority to implement and interpret the Quranic principles. Its literature on these issues is almost non-existent.

UNQUOTE:

Thank you Dr. Abdullah. One hopes ALLAH (SWT) forgives you for mocking HIM and HIS Prophet (PBUH) as they establsihed the system you now deride.

Have you forgotten Islam is a way of life?

Have you deviated so far that you mock?

2008-06-08

M SIDDIQI FROM USA said:
It is a very timely and well written article. I suggest that Dr. Aslam Abdullah convert this article into brochure format with a section added to it as "step-by-step guide for what Muslims could do between now and november 2008." This brochure then could be circulated among Islamic Centers and mosques. We need to some how develop a broader coalition of Muslim communities in order to be effective in the election process.
2008-06-06

BRIAN HOLT FROM USA said:
Biblical Christianity relys on God for influence and power not politics, thus it will continue to spread and grow, independent of politics for a long time to come.
2008-06-06

ANONYMOUS FROM USA said:
By giving a vote, we are giving our trust to a person. We are suppose to give our trust to someone who is trustworthy..This is the difficulty we face.
2008-06-06

FAZAL ALI FROM USA said:
Good article, however you did not go far enough. I also find your description of African Muslim as "them" to be a wrong choice of words- please clarify.

Most of the immigrant Muslim comes from countries where there are no tradition of democracy and democratic institutions, thus they do not believe they can make a difference.

I would like to see immigrant Muslims, including your organization, take a back seat and allow African American Muslim to take the lead in guiding us in the political process- let AA muslims decide which candidates and party to endorse.

It was a big mistake not to follow their recommendation in 2000, when they endorsed Gore and Immigrant muslim organizations foolishly decided to break ranks and endorse Bush. In fact it was insulting to AA muslims, that we totaly rejeted their long history and knowledge of American politics. Immigrant Muslims dominated by Pakistanis and Arabs simply do not have the leadership culture to take the community forward, this task could best be done by AA Muslim brothers and sisters.

While we are at it, lets also admit that racism is a big problem among South ASIAN AND ARAB MUSLIMS AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIMS.

LETS BE HONEST SO WE CAN BEGIN A TRUE DIALOGUE
2008-06-06

DINO DEMARS FROM CANADA said:
I couldn't read any further than "In 2000, when we overwhelmingly voted for George W. Bush".

So it's YOUR fault!

(yes, I'm kidding :-) )
2008-06-05

E.M. SIDDIQUI FROM USA said:
Absolutely, it is imperative that all Muslim Americans become more organize, and participate in the upcoming Presidential election in Nov, 2008, and let their voices be heard. Despite, some of negatives of the past, this is still one of the greatest country in the universe. Despite some of the lies/propaganda of the so-called inteligentsia and media, the US of A is the best country in the world to practice the true precepts of Al Islam as taught and practice by our Nabi, Muhammad (SAW) and the Sahabahs. As one great American poet of olde once said " A lie will travel halfway around the Earth when the truth is just getting ready to start".
2008-06-05