- Other OpinionsPolitical Islam Studies
- October 10, 2008
- 20 minutes read
Muslims and the US Election Campaign: “A Time for Change”
In view of the fact that the race for the White House is now in full swing, it is unlikely that the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA) choice of motto for its annual conference in
The election campaign, which has gathered pace since the official nominations of the Democratic and Republic candidates at the parties’ respective conventions, was the dominant issue at the conference, which, with over 30,000 delegates, is the largest conference of Muslims in the USA.
The well-known preacher Hamza Yusuf, who is particularly influential among the young, received thunderous applause when he called on
Yusuf, who converted to Islam at the age of 17, said he was impressed by Obama’s biography and drew parallels between the Muslim and the African-American communities’ struggle for political recognition.
“Muslims for Obama”
Obama’s pledge to withdraw US troops from
Because of the tax-advantaged status of their organisations, representatives of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) – the two most important Muslim national political pressure groups in the
In recent months, both organisations have been strongly urging Muslim voters and mosque communities to participate in political discussions and to actually go out and cast their votes. According to a recent survey conducted by CAIR, the most important political issues for Muslims when deciding how to cast their vote are education, civil rights, and the relations between the
The Democratic Convention in Denver – which opened this year with an interreligious ceremony involving the president of the ISNA, a Canadian-born Muslim, Ingrid Mattson – ended just before the start of the ISNA conference. Said Mattson: “I welcome the recognition this gives Muslims in
First criticism, then praise
Of the 4,000 delegates at this year’s convention were 47 Muslims who formally endorsed Barack Obama’s nomination as the party’s presidential candidate. For the first time, Muslim activists and office-holders established a network of Muslim Democrats in order to form a visible presence at the convention and increase their influence within the party.
Key figures in this network are the first two Muslims to be elected to Congress, the African-Americans Keith Ellison and André Carson. Only a few weeks ago, Ellison openly criticised Obama for the fact that two Muslim women wearing headscarves were barred from a Democratic Party rally because of fears that television viewers might get the wrong impression.
Following criticism from Ellison and Muslim organisations, Obama called the two young women to apologise and assure them that the decision to bar them from the rally did not in any way reflect his policy. As far as Keith Ellison is concerned, the matter has been dealt with. “I criticised him, but now I praise him. This episode is an illustration of the fact that Muslims have not been sufficiently integrated to date.”
Obama considered by many to be a Muslim
According to Muqtedar Khan of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a Muslim think tank based in
Khan understands why Obama has not yet shown himself in public with Muslims. In a recently published strategy paper, he cautions against making too much of the matter.
For months, Barack Hussein Obama – a self-confessed Christian with a Kenyan Muslim father and an Indonesian Muslim step-father – has been struggling to scotch rumours that he is a Muslim. According to a survey conducted by the renowned
In recent months, John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, has not only avoided all contact with Muslims, but has regularly provoked Muslim organisations by making statements in which he did not differentiate between Muslims and extremists or terrorists.
Shift of support to the Democrats
While a large number of the estimated six million Muslims in the
According to a survey of Muslims conducted by the opinion research centre Zogby International in November 2001, 40 per cent stated that they identified with the Democrats and 23 per cent with the Republicans. A survey conducted by the
Although the absolute number of eligible Muslim voters in the