Home News Tribune, NJ – May 24, 2004
NJ Muslims set to flex political muscles
By MICHELLE SAHN
At the Muslim Center of Middlesex County in Piscataway, mosque leaders are encouraging their members to cast a ballot in the November elections.
At the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in South Brunswick, the administrator said he plans to vote for Democrats, while a member of the board of overseers said she did not yet want to say who she would support, but planned to look at the presidential candidates' stance on issues such as economics and civil rights.
And the chairman of the Islamic Council of New Jersey is not sure who he will be voting for in November, but the Perth Amboy man said he knows it will not be President Bush.
Yet, Kausar Iqbal Bajwa of Hamilton Township, N.J., is a member of a very select, albeit informal, club.
Muslims for Bush.
While some of the Muslim world believe President Bush is waging war on them, and at a time when the country is awash in images of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, some U.S. Muslims are publicly declaring their support for the President.
"I am as proud of this country and the flag of this country as any American-born American is or could be," said Pakistan-born Bajwa. The president "has done the best he could under the circumstances," most recently handling the prisoner abuse scandal with grace.
But pro-Bush Muslims are a distinct minority. While no comprehensive surveys of American Muslims have been done recently, information that has been gathered shows Bush can expect dismal backing from a group that overwhelmingly supported him in 2000, according to exit polls at the time.
An April poll of Arab Americans in four battleground states -- Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida -- found that among Muslim Arabs, only 10 percent said they would vote for Bush. The Arab American Institute and Zogby International conducted the poll of 503 Arab Americans.
A separate report last month on Detroit-area Muslims found similar numbers. About 11 percent approved of Bush's performance; 85 percent disapproved. That report was from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
"I think President Bush is going to have a hard time making his case to the American Muslim community," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It's not good from what we're hearing."
No one has exact figures on the number of Muslims in the United States, much less Muslim voters. The census does not collect data on religion. The American Muslim Alliance estimates there are about 3.2 million Muslim registered voters. Many are concentrated in key battleground states such as Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.
Sayed Hassan, the administrator for the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in South Brunswick, plans to vote for Democratic candidates in the November election. Why? "Because I'm a Democrat," he said. When asked if the war played a role in his voting decision, he replied, "Of course I'm against war, but this is beside the point."