Muslim-Americans could swing election

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Elections, North Carolina Views: 4318
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A FREE DVD CONTAINING anti-Muslim propaganda recently appeared as an advertising supplement in newspapers here in North Carolina and in other electoral swing states across the country. "Obsession: Radical Islam's War on the West" was filled with scenes of Muslims flying planes into buildings, bombing people, burning American flags and screaming with homicidal rage. Although the video dutifully offered a disclaimer that most Muslims are not fanatics, its horrific images and sinister music conveyed an emotional message about Muslims that was unmistakable. The video appeared in the midst of a presidential campaign in which John McCain has conflated the terms "Islamic" with "terrorism" and "radical extremism." Barack Obama continues to deny allegations that he is a Muslim (as if that were a bad thing). Joe Biden refers to such allegations as a "smear campaign."

Most Americans may be too distracted by the Wall Street crisis and other recent news to pay attention to how Muslims are being portrayed as our nation heads to its historic election. But these messages have not escaped the notice of one of the least-discussed - but potentially most important - group of American voters: Muslim Americans.

There are more Muslims in the United States than many people realize - anywhere from four million to six million, most of whom are U.S. citizens. Michigan has significant numbers of Muslim-American voters. So do Ohio, Virginia, Florida and other swing states where even a small group of voters might determine the results. These citizens vote at roughly the same levels as other Americans.

As someone who studies their voting patterns, my guess is they're now likely to support Senator Obama.

Muslim Americans weren't always so politically active. Before Sept. 11, 2001, the Muslim American community - largely made up of affluent, well-assimilated, residentially integrated people - was content to enjoy the benefits of living in a pluralistic, democratic society without getting too involved in politics. Who could blame them? Many originated from countries where religion and politics didn't mix very well. Those who did get involved in politics tended to vote on issues of the day, just like other Americans. In 2000, this translated into overwhelming support for George W. Bush, whose social conservative values resonated with Muslim Americans, which ironically put them on the same side as the Christian right. 

After 9/11 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, Muslim Americans felt increasingly besieged. Many concluded they could no longer sit passively on the sidelines if they wanted to be part of American society. Their participation at the local level in 2004 resulted in nearly half of 100 Muslim American candidates nationwide winning election to positions ranging from a mayor in New Jersey to a state senator in North Carolina.

Ordinarily, this would have indicated growing political integration with the larger society, a familiar story for groups in the United States. But as the recent DVD illustrated, Muslim Americans continue to face fear from other Americans.

Campaign ads that now remind Americans to be concerned about Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and the war in Iraq result too often in Muslims and others with dark skin feeling like they're the ones being watched at airports, even though they are American citizens who obey the law, pay taxes and raise families much like everybody else. 

Rather than focusing on the bank bailout and other domestic issues like other Americans, some Muslim Americans still find themselves feverishly denying any ties to Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism. Rather than promoting conservative social values like they did in 2000, many are spending their time and money on public advertising campaigns, such as the ones currently running on buses and subways in New York and Seattle that aim to correct popular misconceptions about Muslims.

It's unclear whether those who mailed the "Obsession" DVD so close to the election were seeking to scare people into voting for Senator McCain. But if that was their intent, one wonders whether they also stopped to consider the impact on millions of Muslim Americans who are already concerned about how their religion is being portrayed. In previous elections, many of them could be counted on to vote for social conservatives. This time around, that seems a lot less likely, including in the states where even a small shift could determine who wins the White House. 

Read, an associate professor of sociology and global health at Duke University, is a Carnegie Scholar studying Muslim American political assimilation.


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Elections, North Carolina
Views: 4318

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Older Comments:
MINA FROM USA said:
1. I do not believe that barak hates muslims
2. I believe this article does not really cover the muslim- american as much as it covers the muslim migrant specifically.
3. Some muslims were born here in the USA (me). and the fact we would vote for obama has nothing to do with him being muslim or not it has to do with McCain saying "he is not arab, he is a decent man" which speaks mountains of his opinions of arabs in general. Mccain is an angry white man, I have never been more convinced of it in his entire run as I am now.
2008-10-18

IBN ABDALLAH FROM CANADA said:
Republicans or Democrats, how will Muslim participation in the political process allow us to expose the entire system. I thought that Muslims were supposed to forbid the unislamic systems and offer the Islamic way of life as the alternative. While I do see that thier may be some benefits, i.e. proving to washington that we are the "good Muslims" I still do not see how we can endorse kufr. Americans deserve a better way and alternative. How will Muslims offer a better way when we ourselves are rushing to be apart of the same misery that will not guide mankind to the way of Allah (SBT). I just see it as hypocritical for muslims to continuously endorse it because of the above mentioned factor and many other. For example, both candidates are doing thier utmost to distance themselves from Islam. Does that not tell you something? Where is the dignity of the Muslim leadership in America?
2008-10-16

MANSOOR FROM USA said:
I don't think that is true. Given the economic situation, crimes of Bush/Cheney, coddling of the executives with exorbitant salaries at the expense of taxpayer and host of numerous other factors have utterly disgusted the American public against the Repugnants...I mean the Republicans. So, a small number of Muslim votes won't be a factor.
2008-10-09

ZINEDINE FROM MOROCCO said:
Salaamu alaikum,

I doubt that those who vote Republican can be called Muslims. I doubt it very much unless they think we are a bunch of foolish people to believe them. I think that those so called Muslims that voted for Reagan, Bush the father & son are hypocrites!!! I mean how can you vote for a party that is known for its long history of hate towards Muslims & its excitement & jubilation at spilling Muslim blood & still call yourself a Muslim??? Who are you try to fool???
2008-10-09

FAZAL FROM USA said:
no one should vote for any of them very simple reason They HATE MUSLIMS , why vote for some one
that don't like muslims can't you people see the Hate..
2008-10-09

KYLE JOHNSON FROM USA said:
If Obama & the Dems win in November there could be a lot more Biblical Christians among Conservatives, Moderates, and Independents, plus Reagan Democrats. Which adds up to a stunning victory for God.

If being a Biblical Christian is being called an extremists then so be it.
2008-10-08

SALIM ISHAQ HASSAN FROM NIGERIA said:
Then what is wrong for an American with status of Islam to be deprived of political aspire. that man Obama denying the allegation tha he is a muslim. suppose that he is so, then as far as political human right of the new world social order concern which advocate the equality of political right to vote or aspire to be voted regardless of ethnic, religoius, or socioeconomic status. It is utmostly riduculous for Americans to alledge that one's islam can invalidate him from aspiring a political position or at least can be served as political weapon against him. if that the case then, American policy is cheating itself and the world by saying that it stands for the ensurance of wolrd human right. unfortunately, now Islam has become a sign to be used to blaspheme or deface one's status in American society. this is what is happening with Obama, where his political enemies are traducing him as a muslim so that he would be hated and challenged in his politics. what a bad society like America affected by the act of unlukiest man as Bush.
2008-10-08

KHALID FROM US said:
It's a deception that muslims can swing the elections, Neither McCain nor Obama, would openly seek muslim vote to get elected, they will just pretend to ignore muslim votes. Even if we did swing the election, it is of no use for the muslims. In India muslims did swing the vote in favor of a particular party to get it elected, several times, only to find themselves ignored, one the party comes to power. The same will happen in US.
2008-10-06

JOHN JACKSON FROM USA said:
Think of all those conservatives, moderates, and independents becoming Biblical Christians if the Dems control the government.
2008-10-04

MUSLIM FROM UK said:
Bottomline is this, No matter who wins in November Islam will continue to grow and spread.
2008-10-04

CATHERINE GRUNDHAUSER FROM USA said:
It seems that John is unable or unwilling to communicate what he understands to be the message of Christianity. I hope that another devout Christian will step up to the plate.
2008-10-04

DR. MOHAMMAD SYED FROM USA said:
What a tragedy that anti-Islam and anti-Muslim forces in this Land of the Brave and Home of the Free are misleading and scaring their own people through lies and by creating fear among them about Islam and Muslims. They have lied so much that ultimately, people in this great land will get tired of their lies and no body will believe them. We can see how much misinformation and lies are being spread about presidential and vice presidential candidates. So, lies are nothing for them. They have made lies as their business. The liars will be ultimately exposed. In the mean time Muslims need to build their own character and work harder to better themselves. We are Americans and we will make America better and stronger despite their lies and fear-mongering.

Mohammad
2008-10-04

AHMED ASGHER FROM BAHRAIN said:
Dear John Smith

And what do you understand from Christianity? Please explain its message as you know it.

Thank you.

Ahmed
2008-10-03

JOHN SMITH FROM USA said:
Bottomline is this, No matter who wins in november Biblical Christianity will continue to grow and spread.
2008-10-03