Patience Is a Political Virtue
Although President-elect George W. Bush has just begun to assemble his cabinet, a litany of columns and articles have already been written predicting the new administration's approach to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
Martin Sieff of the Jewish Chronicle recently opined that even though more Arab Americans supported the Texas governor than his democratic opponent, the new president "may be surrounded by even more pro-Israel advisers than Gore would have been."
Sieff pointed to Bush's choice of General Colin Powell for Secretary of State as supportive of Israel because of his fluency in Yiddish and time spent as a young boy with a Jewish grocer in New York City.
He also predicted that Condoleeza Rice, picked to become the next National Security Adviser, would be pro-Israeli because she has surrounded herself with Jewish advisers.
Ray Hanania, an Arab American activist and Chicago columnist, recently wrote that the decision by Muslim Americans to support Bush was a mistake saying, Bush "intends to pursue policies that openly contradict Arab American and Muslim interests".
But what these self-styled pundits failed to recognize is the fact that none of this comes as a surprise to Muslim voters.
Muslims could not have ignored the fact that both Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin Powell, both of Gulf War fame, were poised to become major players in a Bush administration. And Bush made no secret about his support for Israel on the campaign trail.
But for years, Muslims and the organizations that represent them have had to sit on the sidelines watching as pro-Israeli interests dominated Washington.
They soon realized their influence on foreign and domestic issues did not match their growing size and wealth. So it was decided that this election season Muslims would lay the groundwork for future political power.
The organizations which represent the Muslim American community at large, such as American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council, the Council on American Islamic Relations, and Muslim Public Affairs Council, decided to organize on the grassroots level and flex some political muscle.
Knowing all too well that this year's choices were less than desirable, Muslims settled on Bush. More than his opponent Al Gore, the Republican candidate reached out to Muslim voters and publicly criticized the use of secret evidence, a provision which has almost exclusively targeted them. "Bloc voting" quickly became the community's mantra and Muslims participated in unprecedented numbers in U.S. election history.
Although those who supported Bush hope to see some concrete signs of recognition and appreciation from the incoming administration, they realize they may not see the full fruits of their labor in this administration or perhaps even the next.
Nonetheless, this exercise in organized and unified political participation was a carefully crafted move intended to lay the groundwork for future Muslim influence in American politics.
Just as Jewish Americans and African Americans worked long and hard to reap the benefits of influence in nearly every sector of American politics, Muslims too must work tirelessly to secure their interests. And when that is achieved, American politics will never be the same.
Topics: Arab Americans, George W. Bush