By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS
Berkeley–October 20–The Monday before last, Farid Senzai, Al-Hussein N. Madhany, Agha Saeed and Hatem Bazian took part in a panel. This article is from their comments there and personal interviews after.
Last week the Muslim Observer endorsed Barack Obama. I was delighted that my employers agreed with me over our choice for President, but at the same time I am concerned that this could be utilized by the legions of anti-Muslim commentators against him! Although Obama is Christian, some estimate as many as 13% of Americans believe he is Muslim.
Because American law is believed to prohibit tracking religion by census, the number of Muslims in this country is unknown and it is difficult to track voters by religion.
Most of the contributors of this Round Table were either Academics or researchers. Amongst their findings was that Muslims became gradually more active in politics within larger cities like Detroit.
After immigration reforms of 1965, under Johnsonâ€™s, a Pakistani influx began. The first wave of those came for education, but many stayed because there was great opportunity here with their training, and they in turn gave much back to this country. Now, they and other following generational groups of Muslims have for the most part become fully American while largely remaining notably Muslim.
In the 1980s, according to the panelists, resistance grew in the Muslim community against participation in the affairs of the country. Many American Muslims disagreed with involvement, but as the younger generation(s) integrated into mainstream US society, they not only demanded their rights as citizens, but also saw the imperative to participate within democratic structures to achieve civil rights for themselves and for the North American ummah.
Most of this wave of people saw themselves as both Muslim and Americans, and because â€œWe do not know the [true] figure for American Muslimâ€ participation, since numbers are a bit hazy, but, through hard research, it has been determined that the best estimate of the Integrationist population is four million, that is, those who believe â€œMuslims should exercise their Constitutional Rights through voting.â€
Yet subsequent generations have come to perceive themselves as totally American, but only secondarily Muslim.
Although it is frowned upon to insist on the declaration of religious or ethnic affinities at the polls or registration, but by comparing Muslim names, a rough sketch of an Islamic estimate can be garnered for the last (2004) presidential contest. 93% of Muslims in the US at that time were eligible to register for the polls while a mere 63% of those made the effort to enroll for the elections, and of those only 58% cast their ballot.
Most first-generation immigrants care mostly for the politics of the lands from which they emigrated, and so it is with Muslims, too, but their sons daughters and grandchildren focus within the US. Thus is born the generation both American and Muslim who are passionately involved with the politics of their new society and the homeland and cultures of their fathers and mothers!
From surveys by Muslims targeted to Muslims, 63% of Muslim citizens lean toward the Democratic Party; while 11% towards the Republicans.
Among American Muslims, party loyalties of the remaining 25% declare themselves as Independents, but amongst Afro-American Muslims the figure is over 80% Democratic.
Although the Muslim vote in the 2000 election between Bush and Gore was tight, the Afro-American canvass continued constant to the Democratic tradition at c. 80%. Because of the Civil and Human Rights abuses against the Ummah at home and abroad, the Muslim vote has shifted overwhelmingly towards the Democrats.
(Your author believes this will remain the trend for some time to come after the nightmares that proceeded from the overreaction of September 11th!)
Muslims (curiously along with Jews) are more liberal, but Islam is, overall, more conservative when it comes to social issues. As Muslims have exceptionally responded to your traditional private charities, you, for the most part have reacted well to governmental services to the poor.
It is safe to say that Muslims are politically maturing in our country!
Your political footprint will increase upon this nation by declaring â€œyour place at the tableâ€ through evolving your unique Islamic-American institutions!
As has been said by some commentators, â€œOur Muslims communities [in the Americas] have gone a long way, but we still have a way to go.â€
Islam in this country has been demonized into a threat. No less so than in (Former) Secretary of State (General) Colin Powell (retâ€™d.) endorsement of Obama, when countering the slanderous accusations of Obamaâ€™s ancestors from one side of his family, â€œâ€¦So what if he is!â€
So to what does this exercise come down? This election is an opportunity to bring justice back to America, and there is no other segment that has suffered the most, and who require the most civic relief than the Islamic.
Therefore, I believe every Muslim knows where his interests lies, and when all is said and done, you should think thoroughly determine what are advantages as a Muslim and as an American when you go into the polling station.