American Muslim voters are poised to vote en masse for Barak Obama, the Democratic Presidential candidate on Tuesday, November 4. According to a Pew Poll, American Muslims are likely to vote 70 to 80 per cent Democrat. The Pew finding was not surprising.
The question is why the Muslims are leaning towards Obama and the answer is not difficult—they have been victims of anti-Muslim policies of Bush administration since 9/11. Muslims are genuinely optimistic that a sweeping change promised by Obama will alleviate their plight and guilt-by-association sufferings.
Fear-mongering has been the main trait of Bush domestic and international policies in the name of "war on terror." During the 2004 and 2006 elections, the fear-factor was used to frighten the masses with imaginary and bloated threats.
The lines are clear in 2008 election. The Democrats go with the facts while the Republicans go with fear. The campaign was marred by bigotry, Islamophobia and racism from the Republicans. It is not necessary to repeat numerous such incidents, but it will suffice to give the latest fear-mongering ploy by the Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Hoping to create a shadowy association between Barack Obama and "terrorism," McCain linked him with widely respected Middle East scholar and founder of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, Rashid Khalidi. Like Obama, Khaldi formerly taught at the University of Chicago, where the two men were friends.
In the waning days of their campaign, McCain and his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, have likened Dr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him "a PLO spokesman"; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Khalidi at which Obama spoke.
The implication is that Obama's socializing with Khalidi makes him an anti-Israel and anti-American radical extremist. Tellingly, this maneuver backfired when it surfaced that in 1998, as chairman of the International Republican Institute, McCain personally oversaw and approved the funding of Khalidi's Center for Palestine Research and Studies organization to the tune of $448,873.
During this campaign, neither presidential candidate has visited a mosque, yet both have made multiple visits to churches and synagogues.
No doubt, the seven-million-strong American Muslim community had a rough time during the 2008 election campaign, enduring smears against Islam, bigotry and stereotyping. Tellingly, despite the messages of inclusiveness and tolerance from both major parties, neither campaign has been overly anxious to court the Muslim vote. To their disappointment, neither presidential candidate has visited a mosque, yet both have made multiple visits to churches and synagogues.
This is the reason that no major American Muslim organization—such as AMT, CAIR and MPAC—has formally endorsed Obama, although they remain heavily tilted towards him because of their grievances against Bush's anti-Muslim policies. However, the Muslim organizations have launched extensive campaigns to motivate the Muslim voters to go out and vote.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has dedicated major resources to protect the Arab and Muslim American votes through the ADC Voter Protection Unit (ADC VPU). The ADC VPU is a special unit composed of a full-time lobbyist, three attorneys in Washington, DC, and one attorney in Dearborn, Michigan. This unit of professionals is dedicated to protecting the Arab and Muslim American communities from voter intimidation and other attempts at chilling the communities' right to vote.
The Arab American Institute has launched the Yalla Vote campaign, "Our Voice. Our Future. Yalla Vote '08." It is organizing Arab Americans across the country to motivate the Arab voters. More than 50 Arab American organizations from around the country have signed on to Yalla Vote '08 campaign.
The American Muslim Taskforce had designated Friday, Oct. 31st as 'National Muslim Voter Education Day USA' and Nov 1-2 as 'National Voter Mobilization Weekend.'
The American Muslim Voice has urged the Muslims to participate in the national political process to make their voice effective.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on American Muslim voters to turn out in large numbers at the polls on November 4th as a positive response to Islamophobic bias and stereotyping in political campaigns.
Last weekend the Muslim Public Affairs Council held seven election town hall forums in Ohio and Pennsylvania in an effort to educate Muslim American voters on key issues and provide an opportunity for interaction with candidates for local, state and federal offices.
What Are Muslim Voters Like? Muslims in the U.S. have proved to be a highly-educated, family-oriented, and diverse group of voters. The results of a national survey, commissioned by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), show that most Muslim voters identify themselves as either Democrat or Independent.
The CAIR survey indicates that the Muslim voters are:
- Young: More than three-fourths (78 percent) of respondents said they are between the ages of 30 and 54.
- Highly Educated: A majority (65 percent) said they have a bachelor's degree or higher.
- Middle Class: Almost half of respondents (43 percent) said they have a household income of $50,000 or higher.
- Family Oriented: More than three-fourths of (77 percent) said they are married.
- Religiously Diverse: More than half (52 percent) of respondents said they attend a mosque at least once a month, but than one-fifth (21 percent) said they seldom or never attend a mosque. While 46 percent of the respondents said they consider themselves "Sunni," 38 percent said they view themselves as "just Muslims." Ten percent said they are "Shia," while two percent said they are "Sufi," a more mystical interpretation of the faith.
- Involved in Civic Life: The vast majority of Muslim respondents (87 percent) said they regularly go to the polls on Election Day and almost half (45 percent) said they volunteer for an institution serving the public.
- Democratic or Independent: Forty-nine percent of respondents said they consider themselves Democrats and 36 percent said they are politically independent. Only 8 percent of respondents said they are Republicans. When asked about their preferred presidential candidate, almost half of respondents (45 percent) said they "don't know or haven't decided."
According to the Muslim American Society Center for Electoral Empowerment, more than 2.2 million Muslims are eligible to vote in November. That number accounts for a fraction of the voting population, but these voters could swing any number of races from local to national. There are approximately 6-7 million Muslims in the U.S., with large and affluent populations in the battle states of Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This Muslim population is divided almost evenly among African Americans (24%), Arab Americans (26%), Asian Americans (26%) and others (24%).