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   Anasayfa arrow Medyadan Seçmeler arrow American Muslims and the 2008 Presidential Election
American Muslims and the 2008 Presidential Election PDF Yazdır E-Posta
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Yazar By: Dr. Muqtedar Khan   
04-11-2008
ISPU: American Muslims and the 2008 Presidential Election


                                                     By: Dr. Muqtedar Khan


Following are the excerpts from the article which is available on
http://ispu. org/files/ PDFs/ispu- american_ muslims_and_ the_2008_ presidential_ election. pdf

American Muslims and Barack Obama
American Muslims have entered a peculiar situation with Senator Barrack Obama. They need him to win - but he, it seems, does not need the Muslim vote to win. Muslims hope that if Obama wins, he will restore sanity to American politics, bring balance to its foreign policy and put a dampener on the steadily rising Islamophobia.17 Obama is seen by .

Americans as a candidate who transcends not just partisanship but also politics. He is poised to bring about change not just in the government but also in the manner in which government does its business. Obama is determined to become a unifying force, reaching out not just to opponents at home but also to enemies abroad. Most importantly, he has awakened a political responsibility in millions of American youth who for decades have remained indifferent to politics.
^
Barack Obama's personality is a composite bridge; he is white and black, native as well as foreign, young yet mature. The black Obama carries within him the echoes of America's disempowered margins. The Harvard Law alum Obama personi?ies the white elite. The Hussein in his name acknowledges that things which appear to be foreign - like Islam - are also native to America. Even his association with Rev. Wright is quintessentially American. It is a bridge to America's dark past from where ghosts still come to haunt the present. Obama is surreal. He is like a customized bridge designed speci?ically to transcend every divide threatening to tear America apart today.
^

Of the two contenders, Obama and McCain, the former has already won the hope of nations abroad. McCain threatens the world with a third Bush term and Obama promises a radical departure. Most commentators abroad expect John McCain to basically adopt the Bush foreign policy albeit minor changes. On the positive front they expect that McCain will be less inclined to adopt tactics like torture and kidnapping that Bush has used. His acknowledgement of global warming is a relief. On the negative side they think he will repeat Bush's folly in Iraq by starting another nightmare in Iran.
Obama, on the other hand, is viewed as free from the foolhardy hubris of neoconservatives and not completely enslaved by special interests. If he is elected, it is hoped that he will transform U.S. foreign policy. Experts overseas expect that he will be willing to seek genuine international cooperation, will rekindle the dead spirit of multilateralism and replace bellicosity and arrogance with diplomacy, tact and understanding.
^
I am convinced that if Obama is elected, the worldwide epidemic of anti-Americanism will de?late instantaneously and the world will reset their perceptions of America. Obama will start with a world eager to work with America to repair the global damage done by the ill-advised and ill-executed policies of George W. Bush. Even in Iraq, nations across the region will cooperate to improve the regional situation. His consistent opposition to the Iraq War will also help improve relations with the Middle East.
^

For American Muslims, his victory will mean signi?icant changes in the domestic environment. It will send a message that the politics of fear mongering have come to an end and anti-Muslim rhetoric and pro?iling at airports and elsewhere will reduce. The vindictive witch hunt that U.S. prosecutors are displaying against Muslims, so tragically manifested in the case of Sami Al Arian,18 will probably come to an end. Let us keep our ?ingers crossed.
Unfortunately, Obama's victory is not guaranteed. He is consistently leading in the polls, but anything could happen between now and November. Yet the ?irst time, Americans have a rare opportunity; they have a chance to elect a President whose vision and leadership is sought not just by many Americans, but most of the World. American Muslims must help their fellow Americans realize this opportunity

American Muslims and John McCain
John McCain has nothing to offer to American Muslims. His Presidency will prove just as dangerous and harmful to Muslims at home and abroad as that of G. W. Bush. Voting for the Republican candidate in 2008 will tantamount to replacing Bush and Cheney with John McCain and Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman's transition to the neocon-in-chief has been completed. He has come out from behind his veils of moderation and now his singular purpose in life seems to be to use America's power against all real and imaginary friends of Israel. In every senate hearing that he is present, he has only one question: "when are we attacking Iran, Ahmedinajad has threatened Israel." American Muslims may or may not be interested in the well-being of Iran; it is a sovereign nation with elected leaders and it fully understands the consequence of its (un)diplomacy and policies. But the rhetoric and discourses that will emerge before, during and after an invasion of Iran will escalate Islamophobia, increase hate crimes against Muslims in America and further undermine their civil rights and quality of life in general. Neoconservative policies have proven to be deceptive and catastrophic to all. Any Presidential candidate who takes Joe Lieberman as a foreign policy advisor is no friend of Muslims. While some Muslims will vote for McCain, the community at large will surely suffer if he wins.
^
Policy Recommendations for American Muslims
My recommendations to the American Muslim community are two-fold. The first three recommendations refer to the broader goal of political engagement, while the rest deal with the Presidential elections of American Muslims must go beyond voting, fund raising and endorsements. They must seek to become integral and permanent features of the electoral processes of the two parties; engagement must not be episodic but continuous. One way to do this is by becoming members of the two main parties, Republican and Democratic, and contribute to the strategic vision of these parties at the local level. In nearly every major city, there are individual Muslims who are heavily involved in local politics. Community leaders must encourage these individuals and provide them with tools and resources to make them in?luential in the mainstream community. Another way to engage is to provide volunteers, especially early on in the campaigns. Muslims are already doing most of these things - they just need to participate more consistently. Local communities must establish either a process or a person to liaison with the political players in their areas. For instance, if some politician is still exploring the idea of running for an of?ice and is looking to see if he can get preliminary support from the community, it should be easy for such a candidate to ?ind who to contact in the Muslim community.
Engage Issues:
One of the American Muslim weaknesses in the political arena has been their inability to empathize with the issues that are galvanizing mainstream politics. Muslims have their own issues - civil rights at home and Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine abroad - but as a community they do not actively take a stand on the issues that matter to the rest of America such as health care, gas prices, mortgage crisis, job loss, family values, etc. As a result, Muslim community engagement with politicians is limited. Most American politicians are handcuffed when it comes to the Arab-Israeli con?lict; there is very little ?lexibility in the system on that issue. But if Muslims are also active on mainstream issues, it becomes easy for politicians and other interest groups to include Muslims in the coalitions they are building. Although each of the aforementioned issues affect the Muslim community, they remain uninterested and unengaged because the issues are not considered "Islamic." Engagement does not mean that politicians respond to Muslim needs alone - Muslims should respond to American needs too.
Assimilating New Immigrants:
It is important that every mosque and every community center run a new immigrant orientation program. These programs should educate immigrants about American democracy, the Abrahamic tradition, the compatibility of Islam and democracy, and the extent of Quranic support for religious pluralism. It is important that community members have a shared value base. It is debilitating when established community leaders pursue goals based on an inclusivist interpretation of Islam and then ?ind that while they were busy engaging the mainstream, the very mosque that was their base has become a haven for an exclusivist interpretation of Islam causing rift and discord within the community. There are several prominent cases of this happening, some of which have embroiled the mosques in tedious and expensive litigation. Communities that seek to have a major impact on the American policy scene need to be united, focused, motivated and willing to go beyond the call of duty.
^
No alternative but Obama:
Muslims have very little leverage with regards to Barrack Obama. If he spurns them, they cannot punish him by throwing their weight and vote behind John McCain. If Obama wins they bene?it, if he loses they will lose. American Muslims are one constituency that Obama as an agent of change can take for granted. Muslims, regardless of Obama's demeanor towards them, vote for him and contribute as much as possible to his campaign. Muslims alone could hypothetically underwrite his entire Presidential bid; 1.5 million Muslim adults giving 200 dollars each would mean $300 million! Even if only 10% of Muslim adults can give $200 each, the contributions would exceed $30 million. No candidate or party can afford to ignore that.
Run mini campaigns:
American Muslims should volunteer to mobilize support and encourage campaign contributions within the community and with their friends from outside the community. There are a lot of false rumors being spread about Obama - help expose these lies. Young Muslims active on the internet can encourage their friends to join Obama support groups on social networks such as Myspace and Facebook. Encourage friends and relatives to register and make sure that come Election Day, they remember to vote for Obama.
Town Hall Meetings:
Community leaders can help increase awareness of issues by hosting town hall style meetings. It would be great if Islamic Centers can invite the local proxies of the two candidates, hold debates about the relative merits of the candidates, and assess their policies to educate the independents who have not made their choice yet. Independents will be the key to this election; Islamic centers can become a focal point for local politics by hosting such events and keeping them open to all members of their local community, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Caution:
American Muslim organizations must be careful how they conduct themselves from now until November. Obama will not cuddle up with American Muslim leaders now or even after he is elected - his proximity to Islam and Muslims is an Achilles heel for him as far as the American electorate is concerned. It is sad but true. Instead, American Muslims must focus on his policies and not on his personality or his personal relations with them. Support or criticize his policies, but eschew discussions about anything else. Just because a candidate is willing to reach out to Muslims does not mean that his policies will be salutary towards them; that is the lesson we learned from George W. Bush, who ambushed us after we endorsed and voted for him.
Final Thoughts:
In the near term, American Muslims will continue to face severe political and cultural challenges in the U.S. Things could undeniably get worse than what they are today. It all depends on two key factors: (1) another attack on the homeland by Muslims like 9/11 and (2) a major war between the U.S. and another Muslim country. If these two events do not happen, things will begin to improve slowly. Obama's election will expedite normalization. He may not meet with Muslims, but he will also not use fear mongering about Islam and Muslims to advance his political agenda. American Muslim leaders continue to suffer from an exaggerated perception of their own in?luence on Muslims and mainstream America. As a result, they have set goals for the community well beyond its current capabilities. It is important that we have a realistic view of our strengths and caliber our goals in proportion to our ability. The important thing is to persevere patiently - God helps those who do so (Quran 2:153).
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Felllow at the Insitute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Raltions and Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware.

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