9799Muslims Alienated from US Political Parties
- Oct 31, 2008Muslims Alienated from America's Political Parties
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As the well attended political conventions of the Democratic and
Republican parties concluded after a long Primary election process in
America, and as election approaches in November this year, it is painful
to observe that the Muslim Americans are not only invisible in the
electoral arena, they are also not openly welcomed by political parties
Even though seven long years have elapsed since the horrible 2001 Al
Qaeda terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the political
atmosphere in America continues to be against the nation's five
million strong Muslim citizens and voters. This year most of the
candidates for the offices of President, Senators, Congressmen,
Governors throughout the fifty states in the US have not allowed any of
the many active and serious Muslim American political activists a
significant role in their campaign.
In the decade before 2001 many Muslim Americans had shied away from the
Republican Party, afraid that it is a party predominantly of the White
folks. At the same time they were also attracted to it because of the
party's emphasis on observing religious faith, the discipline of
family values, and a conservative lifestyle in the free-wheeling
However, the number of Muslim activists in the Republican Party was
small and shrunk further after the 2001 terrorist attacks. In the 2004
election very few Muslim activists worked for the Republican Party,
perhaps angered by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today Muslims do
not receive much visibility in the GOP party, and some anti-Muslim
politicians regularly make corrosive remarks about Muslims.
Compared to the Republicans, Muslim activists flocked in significant
numbers to the Democratic Party to which many racial minorities in US
have turned to in recent decades. The presence of other colored folks in
the Democratic Party gave them a sense of comfort. But since 2001
Muslims in the Democratic Party too are not receiving a warm welcome.
Despite the Muslim-American community showing much enthusiasm for
Democrats and especially for the party's Presidential nominee
Senator Barrack Obama, the senior managers in the party are not letting
Muslim Democrats receive significant roles. In the public election
rallies, Muslims wearing obvious Muslim attire, e.g. Hijab clad women,
were not allowed to be seated in places where the television cameras
could spot them, as was reported in one of Senator Obama's campaign
rallies in Detroit in June this year.
Even two Black Muslim Congressmen who are lifelong Democratic Party
loyalists, Keith Ellison (MN) and Andre Carson (IN), have been politely
told by Senator Obama's campaign to stay away from campaigning for
him. A few liberal Muslims who got an opportunity to be a part of some
Democratic party election campaign committees, e.g. the very liberal
Muslim stockbroker in Chicago, have been politely asked to step down on
one excuse or another.
What is strange is that if you do not identify yourselves as a Muslim,
you may receive some welcome, as the sizeable number of Indian-Americans
do. But if you identify yourself as being associated with any Muslim
platform, your claims of loyalty to the party, your desire to be in the
American mainstream, or even your being an ultra-liberal Muslim, makes
no significant impact. A pretext is found and you are sidelined
regardless of your financial contribution or grassroots campaign work.
Quite a few Muslim Americans are trying to participate in fundraising
efforts for the Democratic party's political candidates this year,
and a few for the Republican party, as they did four years ago, with
hopes of recognition. But neither the Republican nor the Democratic
parties are encouraging any roles for Muslim donors beyond accepting
their financial contributions. A couple of very active Muslim political
activists and fundraisers in the Democratic Party in the state of
Maryland have told me that the party managers' clear message to
Muslims is: Your financial contribution and vote is welcome but we ca
not afford to make you very visible as a campaigner and we cannot pledge
any significant recognition from the Party for your help.
In fact many disgruntled Muslim activists in the US have abandoned
Muslim political groups and have joined Asian-American political groups
in order to continue their political activism.
This is not to say that a few Muslims have not received political
appointments to some junior level management positions in county, state
or federal management positions or government Commissions, as a result
of their help in the campaigns. But most of them have received
recognition by working through an Asian-American platform, and not by
identifying association with any Muslim-American group. And they are
vulnerable to even false complaints against them by anyone.
That makes one wonder if the political parties in America are angry at
the nation's Muslims. Since 2001 a large number of Muslim-American
organizations and Islamic centers have categorically condemned the 2001
Al Qaeda terrorist attack on US and on US interests abroad. Yet their
alienation from the American political parties is not showing any signs
No matter how one looks at it, it is obvious that the five million
strong American Muslim community, with sizeable vote power and sizeable
fundraising power, is not getting a voice in the US political process. A
survey and analysis of the situation indicates that one factor for the
alienation of Muslims from the political parties in US is their
continuing complaint against the US foreign policy in the Middle East
since 2001, and their lack of attention to the Administration's
domestic policies in the US. Also the race-based elements of electoral
politics in this year's Presidential election appears to have added
to the alienation of Muslim Americans from the majority White Americans.
In the Democratic party Presidential Primary election the support for
Senator Obama by a disproportionately large number of Muslim Americans
compared to Senator Hillary Clinton, in spite of the fact that Senator
Obama stretched absolutely no olive branch to them, and their aversion
to the Republican candidates reinforces the feeling that the alienation
of Muslims from White Americans has increased in this election year.
Thus today Muslim Americans are not only alienated from the Republican
Party where most people are Whites, they also appear to be alienated
from a large segment of the Democratic Party.
To compound the problem, major national Muslim organizations like
Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Circle of North America,
Council on American Islamic Relations, Muslim Public Affairs Council,
American Muslim Alliance, etc have stopped taking initiatives in the
political arena since 2001 and are now mostly involved in social,
interfaith, religious and government-liaison work. The enthusiasm for
the Presidential, Congressional and Statehouse elections that Muslim
Americans demonstrated in 2000 has evaporated, leaving a deafening
silence and eerie vacuum in the community's political activism
landscape. The community that was becoming politically vibrant only
eight years ago is without any political agenda, goal or leadership in
Surely the community cannot afford to remain in this limbo and must find
a way out of the suffocating impasse. Muslim Americans must recognize
that building bridges with all Americans, especially the majority White
people, and helping them overcome their anger against Muslims due to the
2001 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on US, should be a priority for them.
Taking far more interest in the domestic US issues rather than foreign
policy issues is a must for the community to redeem itself.
In today's America Muslims should pay serious attention and respect
to women candidates. In elections for important national positions the
community should support a variety of candidates from various shades and
both political parties; not just minority ethnic or religious
candidates. The Muslim American minority should understand that in order
to receive fairness from America 's majority community they should
also give fairness to the majority.
The writer is a community activist in Washington DC. He can be reached
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