Although the U.S. presidential election is a full 10 months away, the race for the White House is preparing to shift into full gear as the New Hampshire primaries are scheduled to take place in less than a month. In order to prepare for the primary season, Muslims must begin the arduous process of evaluating candidates and formulating a cohesive political agenda that can be used in measuring the viability of candidates.
Creating a political platform is no small task, and amongst Muslims, solidifying consensus on most anything is next to impossible. However an attempt at doing so must be made if Muslims are to have any substantial impact at the ballot box in 2000.
As a starting point in this process, Muslims must first face the reality that no American politician will completely support the Muslim agenda. In fact, most Americans have to face that same reality with reference to their agendas as well. For Muslims however, this means that contentious issues of political polarization will likely hamper wholehearted support for many candidates.
What this means is that in order for Muslims to be participatory and effective, they will have to adopt a "Looking Past Jerusalem" approach to agenda setting.
"Looking Past Jerusalem" is both a reference to a specific political issue and a metaphor for a type of methodology. At the micro level, Muslims must understand that judging a candidate based solely on his stance with regard to the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue will disqualify most every candidate. In order to be elected to the oval office in this day and age, a presidential hopeful cannot take the kind of supportive stance for the Palestinians for which Muslims look. Some may come closer than others, but none will meet all the criteria Muslims have.
As an example, Muslims need look no further than Al Gore and Bill Bradley. Both support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, plain and simple. Gore is less abashed in his kowtowing to the American Jewish lobby, but Bradley too does his share of worshipping at the alter of Jewish political influence. If considered solely for their stance on this one issue, neither Gore nor Bradley would likely be acceptable to most Muslim voters, and therefore the Democratic Party would be the proverbial baby being thrown out with the bath water in November.
It doesn't take a genius then, to see how this type of thinking might impact Muslims political choices at a macro, more metaphorical level. If drugs and alcohol are of concern to Muslims, then the Libertarians are pretty much out of the running. If influence of the Christian Coalition and other right wing Christian groups are of concern to Muslims, then many Republican candidates will look less desirable. And lord knows the hodgepodge of controversial stances held by Reform Party candidates would make them a no-go as well.
Muslims must therefore define for themselves what issues of polarization are prerequisites for Muslim endorsement and which are not. To help in this decision making process, Muslims should consider what they stand for.
To a certain extent, the ideal Muslim political agenda should be one that is morally conservative, socially liberal, economically revolutionary and internationally just. This is, of course, a bit nebulous, but it does provide a point of departure for further discussion. In coming weeks and months, iviews.com will explore what this agenda means more specifically and how it maps to actual endorsements of presidential candidates.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com