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Muslims Alienated from US Political Parties

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    Muslims Alienated from America s Political Parties Kaleem Kawaja Pakistan Link
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2008
      Muslims Alienated from America's Political Parties

      Kaleem Kawaja

      Pakistan Link <http://www.pakistanlink.com/>


      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
      and politicians.

      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
      American society.

      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
      of diminishing.

      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
      today's America.

      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
      at kaleemkawaja@...



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