How Muslim America Sees the Election
Saeed Minhas is covering the US 2008 elections after visiting Washington DC, Virginia, New York and Ohio.
As the presidential race is getting focused on the seven swing states and about 20 to 30 per cent undecided voters across the country, Barak Obama and John McCain have decided to spend their last week before elections in the battle-ground states starting with Ohio from Monday and focusing on economy. Afghanistan and Pakistan seems to have been omitted from the main course of the debates but remains the undercurrent of the campaign.
However, Iraq war and Iran do get mention from both the candidates during their interviews with the mainstream media, but Muslim and Arab communities seem skeptical of both the candidates on this account too. With the country’s budgetary deficit crossing the historic 10 trillion dollars mark and after the Wall Street melt-down, the entire campaign is about the domestic issues facing the Americans. Both the candidates are trying to woo the undecided voters by reiterating that how they are going to overhaul the housing, economy, health care, tax cuts and education, but none is making any effort to reach out to the conspicuously silent Asian Muslim and Arab communities.
Muslim-Americans—four to six per cent of the 300 million nation--are twice as likely as most Americans to be independents according to polls. A visit through various Arabs and Muslim communities reveals that most will vote for Barack Obama, but even supporters of the Democratic candidate express frustration at the rampant Islamophobia popping up throughout all sides of the presidential election.
Barack Obama's message of unity and diplomacy is an appealing one for many Muslim-Americans, but his conspicuous absence from Muslim and Arab-American neighborhoods and mosques this campaign season has some voters feeling slighted. In Michigan and New York specially while in smaller but battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Nevada—home to a big Muslim population as well as the nation's largest concentration of Arab-Americans — reaction to Obama has been mixed. For some, Obama's message transcends race, ethnicity and religion. Others say the Democratic nominee has done little to reach out to Arabs and Muslim voters, and are withholding support.
Feelings about John McCain is a bit on the negative side because of his objectionable remarks about Arabs and Muslims, and many in these communities are seen quoting his remarks about those oil producing countries who does not like America. Osama Siblani publishes the Arab American News, which is based in Dearborn, Michigan. Talking to National public Radio (npr), he said “both the McCain and Obama campaigns have done a rotten job of engaging with Arabs and Muslim voters, reports a web page. On a scale of 10? Below minus 10." Siblani said both Obama and McCain have allowed the words "Arab" and "Muslim" to be hurled as pejoratives. He added that worst of all, neither candidate has made a significant effort to reach out to his community. Siblani also heads the Arab American Political Action Committee, which for the first time is not endorsing a presidential candidate. Many of the attacks on Sen. Obama this campaign season have centered around suggestions, not just that he is secretly a Muslim, but that being a Muslim is the equivalent of being a terrorist.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the anti-Islamic subtext of those attacks when he endorsed Obama over the weekend. He took members of his party to task for failing to challenge the bigoted assumptions that underlie the whisper campaign. At places where American Muslims are helping out the Democrats, they are not doing so in an overtly manner, like in Ohio Muslim community is very much part of the Obama campaign but does not want their efforts to be seen on any radar. Mr. Yahya, a long-time supporter of Democrats has not been part of the door to door campaign of Obama camp but remains busy in arranging fund raisers, office arrangements and campaigning in his own way at Muslim gatherings and housing areas in Ohio, finds out this scribe after spending sometime with him.
Tags: American Muslims , Democrats , Republicans
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