By Memon, Ali Nawaz
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. X, No. 3
Clinton or Dole: Who's Best for Middle East Peace? Without Work, American Muslims Will Remain Irrelevant To the Elections
It is tragic for all Muslims, but it is true! Even though there are about six million Muslims in America with about one million votes, Muslims as a group have no influence over American congressional or presidential elections.
Political pundits around the world have been trying to identify voter groups that could most affect the 1996 presidential and congressional elections. They warn their favorite candidates to be particularly mindful off
The Christian Right which opposes abortion and same-sex marriage; angry white voters who oppose reverse discrimination; young Black voters who seldom voted in the past but who have been inspired by the "Million Man March"; Jewish voters who demand unquestioned support for Israel despite the Likud victory; union members who are behaviorally Democrats but are Republicans in their attitudes; rich women who tend to be liberal on social issues but conservative on economic issues. No one writing in the mainstream press has mentioned Muslim voters.
Just before the 1992 elections, Islamic Horizons magazine published a number of stories on "Are Muslims Taking the Islamic Message to America's Leaders?" It summarized the candidates' responses as "BUZZ OFF." None of the serious candidates was even willing to mention American Muslim concerns.
Since then, Muslim national and ethnic groups have become more active. Some Arabs, Pakistanis, Kashmiris and Palestinians have gained access to members of Congress and the Senate. A few even claim personal access to the president. They have photographs with the First Family to prove it. Thanks to the activities of organizations like the American Muslim Council and others like it, the White House acknowledges the existence of Muslims in America. The First Lady invited some Muslim families to the White House for an Eid alFitr breakfast and she visited the Islamic Center in Los Angeles. But, despite the potentially large Muslim vote, advisers and pro-Israeli writers have advised the First Family against socializing with Muslims.
In any case, when it comes to the discussion of the Muslim agenda, the mainstream Muslim leaders feel that it is too early to talk about it. Either they have chosen to be silent or they acknowledge having no influence. Some influential Muslims confess in private that they have been asked to stay away from candidates lest the candidates be accused of involvement with the "terrorists." In addition, other influential Muslims who do have access to elected officials have been asked to stay away from certain Muslim political organizations for the same reason.
The results of the 1994 congressional elections indicated a move toward moral values and the increased role of religion in the family and in society. More Muslims began to feel comfortable with the political process. However, as the 1996 elections approach, politically active American Muslims are still afraid to ask and are clearly unable to get political commitment from candidates on such basic points as:
- freedom to practice and develop Islam in the United States without being accused of terrorism;
- American even-handedness for current Muslim causes, including Palestine, Kashmir, and Chechnya, in terms of executive action, passing positive legislation and defeating laws having a negative impact;
- safeguards from subversive or destabilizing action against Muslim people and governments around the world;
- support for development of Muslims around the world, in terms of maximizing beneficial relations between Muslim countries and the United States in economic, political, cultural, spiritual, and military fields;
- elimination of frequently portrayed negative media images of Muslims in general, and Arabs in particular;
- encouragement for creating and maintaining a positive image of Islam and Muslims, as has been done with many other minorities, e. …