Muslim Votes Matter
- MUSLIMS ARE ANGRY -- AND THEY MATTER
Lorraine Woellert Edited by Richard S. Dunham, BusinessWeek, 12/1/03
The 2000 election cycle was a heady time for Muslim voters. Although
courted by both major parties, Muslim groups gave George W. Bush
their first-ever Presidential endorsement. The clincher: His pledge
to repeal a Clinton-era law making it easier for prosecutors to use
secret evidence in terrorism cases. Now, concerned that their civil
rights are being trampled in the war on terrorism, Muslims plan to
make their presence felt again at the polls next year -- but this
time, many will vote against Bush. In a Zogby poll last summer, 78%
of Arab-American Muslims gave Bush poor grades: Only 10% favored his
reelection. ``Muslims will trend more Democrat than Republican in the
next election,'' predicts Omar Ahmad, chairman of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
A shift could hurt Bush. America's estimated 5 million Muslim voters
are a sliver of the electorate, but their impact is multiplied
because they are concentrated in swing states such as Michigan, Ohio,
New Jersey, and Florida. Indeed, activists boast that some 65,000
Florida Muslim votes put Bush over the top in 2000...
Islamic leaders are deeply disappointed with the Administration's
performance. In the wake of September 11, Bush backed off his promise
to repeal the Secret Evidence Act as the Administration detained
hundreds of Arab Americans, shut down Muslim charities, and expanded
surveillance powers under the Patriot Act.
Bush took another hit in June. Lieutenant General William G. Boykin,
deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence, speaking of his
meeting with a Muslim Somali warlord, said: ``I knew that my God was
a real God and his was an idol.'' Bush distanced himself from the
remarks but has ignored calls for Boykin's resignation. ``It's going
to be very difficult for the Muslim community to vote for President
Bush again,'' says Tahir Ali, author of an upcoming book on Muslims
in American politics.
Republicans will try to stem defections by emphasizing the
conservative views they share with Muslims, including opposition to
abortion and gay marriage. GOP strategist Grover G. Norquist sees
short-term damage but says Muslims and other "communities of faith"
will trend Republican. "Some votes will move, but not as much as some
may fear," he says.
Still, thousands or even hundreds of votes in a battleground state
can be significant. So don't be surprised to see the White House try
patching things up before Ramadan '04.
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