The Saudi Gazette – July 13, 2004
Most Muslims may not vote for Bush this time
By Karen Bradway from Washington
IN contrast to the 2000 election, when more than half of America’s Muslims rallied to support President George W. Bush, a recent survey shows more than half now favoring his Democratic opponent John Kerry.
Only two percent of Muslims surveyed by the Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR) say they would vote for Republican Bush. Bush’s drastic decline in popularity is largely attributed to his interventionist policies in the Mideast and his erosion of Muslim and Arab’s civil liberties in the United States.
While Bush’s handling of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has been an unequivocal foreign policy failure, gaining him low marks not only by Muslims but worldwide, some Arabs say Bush lost points even before 9/11 for his handling of the economy, environment, and other domestic concerns.
Bush now stands according to the nations 2.5 million Muslim voters significantly behind Ralph Nader, a third party candidate of Arab descent.
But many Muslim leaders say the support for Kerry is soft and these figures could change.
It’s definitely a potential for Muslims to vote democratically, but whether you energize that base or not is another matter. The Muslim community has gone through this many times to understand that we are not going to give up our votes so easily for one side or the other, said Salam Al-Marayti, Executive Director of the Muslims Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
Al-Marayti says both the Republicans and the Democrats have not reached out in any real way to Muslim voters. I don’t think either campaign has done enough in terms of winning the Muslim vote at this time, he told The Saudi Gazette.
The most the groups have done is send out feelers sent a few representatives and speakers to talk to Muslim groups, he said.
Muslim leaders agree that voting-wise, Muslims pretty much have no good options. The Republican party has stripped Muslims of their civil rights, and has employed a unilateral, pre-emptive foreign policy many disagree with; the Democratic party’s strong pro-Zionist base ideologically has traditionally conflicted with many Muslim and Arab objectives; additionally, at least until recently, it was perceived as being too liberal to appeal to the more conservatively-oriented values of Muslims.
The Green Party due to its strong civil liberties stance has emerged in many ways as the most appealing option for Muslim voters. The party was initially off-putting because of its support for gays.
Some leaders say Democratic or liberal support is nothing new, and that the representation of Muslims as conservative and committed to the Republicans has been a manipulation of conservative immigrant Muslims groups and the media. African American Muslims, they point out, who comprise 27 percent of the country s Muslims, have consistently voted Democrat.
Open Secrets, a Washington-based organization that tracks campaign funding, reveals that Arab and Muslim campaign funds in the 2000 election were for the most part evenly divided between the Republican and Democrat party.
Muslims are a diverse group: South Asians (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc) comprise 39 percent of American Muslims; African Americans comprise 27 percent; Arabs 17 percent; Central Asians (Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Tajikistan and former Soviet Union) comprise 11 percent; Africans (Nigerians, Sudanese, etc) 3 percent, White Americans one percent and Hispanics one percent.
However, Dr. Aslam Abdullah from The Muslims Electorate Council of America (MECA), says if Muslims want to swing the election in favor of the Democrats, they can.
Abdullah says a high number of Muslims will need to vote in states such as Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Arizona and Ohio in order to achieve this. He concedes that it will not be easy getting the required number of Muslims to the polls.
Out of an estimated 2.4 -2.7 million voters, only 53 percent are registered to vote. That is a low number, says Abdullah. It needs to go higher. In order to make an impact, 80 percent need to register and 75 percent need to come out and vote.
Samina Faheem, founder and Executive Director of The American Muslim Voice (AMV), says she is not sure Muslims will galvanize themselves to support Kerry’s campaign. She says the electoral clout Muslims exerted in 2000 and the subsequent failure of Bush to fulfill campaign promises has made Muslim voters wary of believing in either of the two parties.
I talk to voters firsthand, Faheem told The Saudi Gazette. The response I receive is so what if we vote? No one listens anyway.
While Faheem acknowledges there are effective voter registration efforts underway, she says her community for the most part has been silenced. Since 9/11, it has been an uphill battle. In 2000, there were 700 Muslims running for public offices all over the USA and 150 were elected for various offices. In 2002, we had 70 Muslims who ran for the offices. Even though we had good results, in 2004, there are fewer than 25 Muslims running for offices, she said. Doing registration and trying to enroll people, not only did we have to educate them, we had to help them overcome their fear of 9/11 and that fear comes from the current administration, she said. Policies such as the Patriot Act, Special Registration, executive anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim orders, war with Iraq, and a 121 percent increase in hate crimes hinder what we re trying to achieve.