Daily Times - March 27, 2004
American Muslims and bloc-voting
By Muqtedar Khan
If American Muslims are to find an authentic expression for their citizenship, then they must follow their conscience and vote for a better America based on self-interest and personal judgment
In the upcoming US presidential elections, the stakes are very high for American Muslims. The feeling is that if George W Bush can be defeated, there is hope that many of the unconstitutional practices instituted by the USA Patriot Act will be revoked by his successor; Muslim organizations will be spared undue hardships and America may be less likely to invade Muslim countries under dubious circumstances. The community will be able to relax and focus its energies on not only restoring Islamic and Muslim institutions in America, but also on winning back the hearts and minds of the rest of America.
This is why political mobilization within the American Muslim community is more intense and widespread than ever before. Everyone who can vote is determined to vote and most are likely to vote against the incumbent. National and local initiatives have expedited voter registration and a strong desire for change promises a high voter turnout.
While the mood in the community is strongly anti-Bush, there are pockets of support for the current regime. Iraqis, particularly the Shiite community, is very happy with the Bush administration and will break ranks to support George W Bush. The Shiites of South Asia see the invasion of Iraq as a just war against oppression. They will not only vote for Bush but will also contribute heavily to his war chest.
Finally, politically conservative Muslims are likely to come out in support of Bush. There are individual Muslims like Mori Husseini, CEO of ICI Homes who have become rangers (those who raise more than $200,000). Dr Malik Hasan who told the New York Times that he ‘adores the President’s accomplishments’ is a pioneer (raised over $100,000); there are many more like them. There is a diversity of political opinion within the American Muslim community which will win the president some support either for his pro-democracy rhetoric overseas or for his social conservatism at home in spite of the strong anti-Bush sentiment.
The American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections 2004, an official umbrella organization of many American Muslim Organizations, has made civil rights its main plank. They term the strategy ‘Civil Rights Plus’. They have identified American Muslim concerns as (1) civil rights, (2) domestic issues and general welfare and (3) global peace with justice, war prevention and US relations with the Muslim World. This group is essentially the same group that, under the name American Muslim Political Coordination Committee, endorsed George W Bush and, according to them, delivered 78 per cent of American Muslim votes to him in 2000.
Dr Aslam Abdullah of the Muslim Electorate’s Council of America (not a member of the taskforce) reports that a national study conducted by his organization reveals that there are 2.7 to 3 million potential Muslim voters today, but only 60 per cent are registered, reducing the possible number of votes to 1.6-1.8 million. Even if there is a high turnout of Muslims in November 2004, we are looking at about 1-1.25 million votes. This can be a significant number in a close election and American Muslims could play a pivotal role.
Can American Muslims really make a difference in 2004? If George Bush does lose by a million votes in 2004, can American Muslims claim that they made the difference? Will it then teach American politicians not to mess with Muslim civil rights and Iraq? American Muslims hope that they can make a difference — and make this point.
In the elections of 2000 the community felt that its most important goal was announcing that it was willing to participate in mainstream politics and that it was a force to reckon with. Voting as a bloc was, therefore, of great strategic importance to American Muslims then. But things have changed now. American politicians fully understand and recognize the strengths and limits of the community.
If American Muslims play the bloc-vote politics again by endorsing the democratic candidate, the potential gains through a democratic victory need to be balanced against the dangers of another Bush victory. Whether the Muslims vote for them or not, the Democrats are bent upon restoring civil rights in America and reining in the American military. But if American Muslims endorse Kerry and Bush wins, then we will find out if the Republicans bear grudges and how far they are willing to go to teach a lesson to those who tried to teach them a lesson.
In the event it makes sense that the American Muslims should stop having an instrumental relationship with the American system. It is time the community goes beyond one or two defining issues and starts integrating into the broad range of challenges that America faces at large. We must allow our community members to find causes that they care for and let them vote according to their conscience. Voting blocs are antithetical to the spirit of democracy; they involve an undemocratic imposition of an agenda defined by the elite on all members of the community. If American Muslims are to find an authentic expression for their citizenship, then they must follow their conscience and vote for a better America based on self-interest and personal judgment.
Dr Muqtedar Khan, a non-resident fellow at Brookings, is Director of International Studies and Chair, Political Science, Adrian College. He is also the author of ‘American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom’
Send your comments on this article
Muslim bloc vote is a great looking idea, but ......
Muslim bloc vote is a great looking idea.
Will it happen. Did it really happen in 2000.I do not think so.
Muslims have not emerged as a cohesive force with one goal as yet. It does not have a national leadership as yet. At least I do not see any.
Will Kerry be better than Bush? I think that is true of any Democrat. A Democrat is better for the rights of minorities as a class. We can get a break from the state of constant fear that we are in at present.
If we concern ourselves to the rights and peace for us in America as it’s citizens then we along with other minorities can play a significant role at present and wait for our time when we can stand on our own feet and take a stand.
If we are advocating the Middle East and Iraq then there is no difference between Kerry and Bush and both of them are in it together. The language might be a little different but the substance is the same.
Muslims also have poor concept of sacrifice, specially financial, to make a difference. There is no charity in politics. The Jews have proved that legislators can be bought and scared to lose but it needs sacrifice and a Goal. Muslims have no common Goal as yet.
I am more concerned about us for our security and rights as us citizens than worry about the foreign policy towards the "Muslim" world where there is no country that has democracy except Malaysia and no country that grants human rights to it’s citizens. There is almost nil legitimate ruler in the whole "MUSLIM" world.
My dear Diaspora members let us be realists and assess what is good for us politically. I will vote Democrat because their human rights record and feel safer as a minority. I feel unsafe in Republican administration with Patriot acts one and two and possibly three and will not forget the Japanese a few years ago.
I will love for people to discuss the pros and cons of our actions specially those who have some political insight so that we all learn.
Kimat G Khatak
April 22, 2004
African American Muslim Vote
Dr. Muqtedar Khan's article does not address the black (African American) Muslim vote. his 'Muslim' refers to the immigrant bloc. If they have their own reasons for voting in majority for their own particular concerns, this may obviate the immigrant Muslim vote.
Also, the voting history, as far as I know is heavily bloc dependent. This is also written in Fareed Zakaria's book-- illiberal democracy-- and referred to in talks by many political science professors. will we not loose any leverage if we don’t seem to have any chance
of affecting the results?
March 30, 2004
We need to vote in large numbers
You are correct that MK does not mention black Muslim vote but if you notice he further departmentalizes the immigrant vote by throwing Shia factor in this time, which I think is the first as far as I know.
As far the obviating is concerned I think these are very strange times and even the immigrant vote is not going to be a bloc vote. If that is good or bad only time will tell.
Our leadership seems to be struggling this time to come up with a definitive answer.
Going with red, green, blue or any other 3rd party will be a waste of the vote. Majority of common Muslim voters will not vote for Bush, but there are some groups who already seem to support him. Which might be a good thing as if he wins and I think he has a very good chance our bloc vote against him may cause a backlash and he may not even make those Muslim friendly statements which he does time to time.
Because of last elections bloc vote, Muslim vote is getting attention and is being discussed in main stream media and politics. How do we use this for leverage? ..........that is a great question.
Blacks in general and "our cousins" generally vote Democratic as a bloc. But look at the difference in their standing in the political arena. Most of the time Democrats take blacks for granted and the Republicans totally ignore them and hence their issues and concerns.
Jews on the other hand are part of the whole political establishment and part of every election campaign. This factor and the financial support of ALL major candidates and parties makes up if their block votes loses and they do not suffer any consequences as the blacks do.
Best thing for us seems if we vote for lesser of the 2 evils. If we look at Kerry's statements on Palestine or Kashmir they are not very friendly to Muslim positions either, so who is the lesser evil?
Many Muslims want to vote against Bush to make a statement, but then there are some who even as a group want to vote for him.
We need to vote in large numbers. Even if our votes get split and cancel each other out, that is what I see happening this time.
In my view a big achievement for us this time will be if we can prove that we are here and WE DO VOTE.
Director for Northern California,
American Muslim Voice
March 30, 2004