At a time when many Americans are blase or cynical about the
political system, many Muslims are energized by a desire to find
their place in US society and to press domestic and foreign policy
Among this burgeoning Muslim-American movement to get active in
politics are people like Mustafa Tameez, an advertising rep in
Houston, who is an enthusiastic participant in the political
process. Working his way up in the Texas Democratic Party, he's now
on the state nomination committee. His wife, Selma, joined 50 other
Muslims as delegates to this year's Democratic National Convention.
"I grew up in this country. My parents migrated here, and I was
always told this was the land of opportunity," Mr. Tameez says.
Tahir Ali, a software engineer who chairs the Massachusetts
chapter of the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), is active in state
Republican circles and was an adviser on a 1996 Republican
presidential campaign task force.
Karreim Muhammad, an African-American Muslim from Detroit, ran
this year for the Michigan state house. He lost in the primary, but
the experience has encouraged him to try again in two years.
Muslim Americans are grabbing the attention of both parties in
the presidential campaign because of where they reside.
Concentrated in "battleground states" such as Ohio, Michigan,
Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, and Texas, Muslims could make a
difference in the outcome, pollster John Zogby says.
With the two candidates running neck and neck in Michigan, for
example, both George W. Bush and Al Gore have courted local groups
of the estimated 275,000-strong Arab-American community (one-half
Christian) and the 450,000 Muslims in the state.
Two organizations from these Michigan communities recently
endorsed Governor Bush. "A lot of it is access," says Kay Siblani,
of the Michigan chapter of Council of American-Islamic Relations.
"I think people here feel the Republican party in general and Bush
in particular will prove to be more flexible on foreign policy in
the Middle East."
Encouraged by their potential to be a swing vote, a coalition of
national Muslim organizations is urging their communities to
consider voting in a bloc. On Oct. 23, the political action
committee of the American Muslim Political Coordination Committee
(AMPCC-PAC) also endorsed Bush, citing his outreach to the Muslim
community, his stand on an important domestic issue, and their
expectation of greater flexibility on foreign policy issues.
"Many Muslims were very happy that Bush spoke during the second
debate against profiling of Arab-Americans and about the issue of
secret evidence [in hearings of the INS]," says Syed Ahsani, AMA
chairman in Texas.
The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently
released results of a poll which showed a major shift in Muslim
preferences since June. …