Elections 2000: A U.S. Election Strategy for Muslim Americans and Christian Arab Americans for the Year 2000

By H, Richard | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Elections 2000: A U.S. Election Strategy for Muslim Americans and Christian Arab Americans for the Year 2000


H, Richard, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


ELECTIONS 2000: A U.S. Election Strategy for Muslim Americans and Christian Arab Americans for the Year 2000

Forty-seven years ago when I was taking my first courses at the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Institute, one of the speakers warned against trying to explain the differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. The reason, he said, is that there are no lasting, fundamental party differences. It's a point for Muslim and Arab Americans to remember as they develop an election strategy.

A second truism is that all politics is local. For example, members of Congress from the New York metropolitan area invariably are pro-Israel. The New York metropolitan area also happens to have the largest Jewish population of any city in the world. Similarly, Democratic Representatives David Bonior and John Conyers, two of the most outspoken congressmen on Palestinian matters, represent districts in Detroit, a city which has huge Muslim- and Arab-American communities.

In short, politicians reflect the prevailing views in the district that elects them. Therefore, Muslim voters don't have to please their representative in Congress to gain influence. He or she has to please them in order to be re-elected.

A third consideration is that American foreign policy is almost solely the result of American domestic politics. The most extreme example is in the Middle East, where ever since World War II U.S. policies have ignored long-term American strategic or national interests and instead have been shaped by an enormously powerful ethnic/religious lobby.

In fact, in a poll among lobbyists for special interests conducted in December 1997 by Fortune magazine, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was voted the second most powerful lobby in the United States, trailing only the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

So any electoral strategy for Muslim and Arab Americans must be based upon three considerations: First, don't become irrevocably identified with one political party or another. Second, build support in Congress and eventually in the White House by working together to elect friendly candidates, from either party, through unified action. And, third, since the problem is to neutralize a domestic lobby that has distoned, even subverted, U.S. national interests, the goal should be to restore traditional American support for human rights, self-determination and fair play.

If Muslim and Arab Americans can become a domestic lobby for these American traditions, they will earn the gratitude of an overwhelming majority of their fellow Americans. In short, Muslims and Arab Americans do have the power to change American foreign policy, and very quickly if they work together to build on their strengths, and minimize their weaknesses.

Their biggest strength is in their numbers. Islam is not only the fastest growing religion in the world; it also is the fastest growing religion in the United States. There are an estimated 5 to 8 million Muslims in the United States, and perhaps another 1.5 to 2 million Christian Arab Americans, for a combined total of 6.5 to 10 million people, or 2.5 to 3.8 percent of the American population. And the Muslim numbers are growing very rapidly.

By contrast, although the U.S. Jewish community claims 5.5 million members, in fact by now it probably totals fewer than 5 million people. Of these, no more than 10 percent are Orthodox Jews, and this is the only segment of the U.S. Jewish community that is growing, because of its high birthrate.

According to this year's annual survey by the World Jewish Congress Institute in Jerusalem, the other 90 percent of the U.S. Jewish community is diminishing. Its birthrate is below replacement level, and about 50 percent of American Jews, like Jews everywhere in the world outside Israel, are marrying spouses of different faiths. Of these intermarried couples, perhaps no more than 20 percent raise their children as Jews. …

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