The New Hampshire primary is now history. John McCain has proven to be a formidable opponent and Al Gore has proven that political know-how can overcome questions of a candidate's sincerity. But that was New Hampshire, a state relatively insignificant with reference to Muslim electoral influence. With such insignificance, it is no wonder that the candidates were not knocking on the doors of the handful of Muslims that call New Hampshire home. But that does not mean that the Muslim vote should not have been on their minds. Unfortunately it was not.
Iviews.com correspondent, Zakariya Wright happens to be a New Hampshire resident and had the opportunity to pose a question to Bill Bradley at an election event concerning his interest in the Muslim vote and Muslim election issues. Bradley gave a predictable, canned response touching on general hopes that he can appeal to America's diversity. By Wright's account of things, Bradley was somewhat surprised that there was a journalist in the media pool asking about Muslim issues, and the rest of the journalists in attendance that day seemed equally surprised at the question.
Bradley's surprise reflects the amount of importance Muslims have in the eyes of the candidates. The courtship that other constituencies enjoy from the presidential hopefuls is reduced to not even a flirting glance in the case of Muslims. Speaking practically, that is not likely to change drastically over the next nine months. Politicians are known for their chameleon-like ability to remake themselves over short periods of time, climbing whatever color of political tree necessary; but in the case of Muslims, it is increasingly unlikely that will happen.
A large part of the problem lies with Muslims. There is essentially no Muslim agenda. Therefore candidates don't feel compelled to chase Muslim votes with regard to key issues that move the political leanings of other key constituencies. A recent Fox News poll pointed to the economy, health care and education as being the major issues that will influence how Americans vote. All three of these are domestic issues, ones on which Muslims are yet to draw political lines in the sand.
One of two things needs to happen then. Either Muslims need to take firms stands on domestic issues of polarization, or they need to awaken candidate's interests in the unique blend of foreign policy and less emphasized issues that would ideally comprise an American Muslim political agenda.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com