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Islam and the West ( 9 Nov 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Muslim voters turn out in droves for Barack ‘Don’t Call Me Hussein’ Obama

 

In his first term as President, Obama stopped using his Muslim middle name, failed to keep some of the his pre-election promises of special interest to Muslims (such as closing down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and bringing peace in the Middle East), and did precious little to actively court Muslim support. But by simply turning the country’s attention away from the divisive issues of the past and focusing them on healthcare, jobs and economic revival, he has played a crucial role in helping American-Muslims begun their journey back to the mainstream of American society. Muslims have responded by engaging civically and politically.

 

 

 

By Saif Shahin, New Age Islam

10 Nov 2012

 American-Muslims, unsurprisingly, voted overwhelmingly to re-elect President Barack Obama, although his support within the community appears to have waned over the four years of his presidency.

 Nearly 86 percent of Muslim voters cast their ballot for the Democratic President on Nov. 6, while just 4 percent supported his Republican rival Mitt Romney, according to an exit poll by the advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party’s Jill Stein equally split another 4 percent of the Muslim vote. The exit poll surveyed more than 650 American-Muslim voters by email, CAIR said in a press release.

 A similar poll in 2008, when Obama became the first black President of the United States, showed 89 percent of Muslims had voted for him over his then rival John McCain.

 Although Muslim support for the President appears to have marginally declined, it is still the highest among all religious groups. Another poll by the Pew Research Center showed 69 percent of Jewish, 50 percent of Catholic and only 42 percent of Protestant voters supported Obama this year. These votes, too, have dropped compared with four years ago, when they were 78 percent, 54 percent and 45 percent respectively. The only groups among which Obama’s support has increased since 2008 are black Protestants (from 94 to 95 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (from 72 to 75 percent). The latter was decisive for his re-election.

 Even though Muslim support for Obama has slipped over four years, the President appears to have drawn a number of Muslim fence-sitters as well as some Romney supporters to his side in the dying days of his campaign. Another CAIR poll in October this year showed only 68 percent of Muslims had by then decided to choose Obama, while 25 percent were undecided and 7 percent had planned to vote for Romney.

 “Muslim voters in swing states such as Florida, Virginia and Ohio seemed to have played a critical role in tipping the balance in the president's re-election victory,” CAIR chief Nihad Awad said.

 Muslims: Engaged and Mainstream

 Besides partisan support, what is noteworthy about these results is the high percentage of Muslim turnout in the election. “The fact that more than 95 percent of Muslim respondents went to the polls is a clear indication that they are fully participating in our nation’s political process and are part of the fabric of America,” Awad added.

 This is also reflected in the list of issues on the basis of which Muslims said they made their electoral choice.

 CAIR’s October poll showed 89 percent Muslims considered education as a very important issue for candidate selection, while 87 percent said jobs and the economy was very important. A total of 79 percent said health care and civil rights were very important, while 76 percent said Medicare and social security, 73 percent said international relations and 71 percent said terrorism and national security were very important.

 All these are also top-of-the-list national issues, of concern for Americans of all hue or affiliation. In comparison, much fewer Muslims named so-called “Muslim issues” as very important for their voting decision: such as the possibility of Iran war (67 percent), Israel-Palestinian conflict (61 percent) and the uprising in Syria (49 percent). Along with abortion, these issues were relegated to the bottom of the list of concerns for American-Muslim voters.

 Anti-Muslim Candidates Lose

 Obama’s victory was not the only good news for Muslims on Nov. 6. At least four members of a so-called “anti-Muslim caucus”, a group of Islamophobic Congress members who publicly voice anti-Muslim views and push anti-Muslim laws as a bloc, have been ousted.

 The most notorious of them Allen West, a Republican representative from Florida lost to Democrat Patrick Murphy by nearly 2,500 votes. West says that Islam is not a religion but “a totalitarian theocratic political ideology” and “a very vile and very vicious enemy that we have allowed to come in this country”. He has, however, not conceded defeat and petitioned for a recount. Illinois Republican representative Joe Walsh’s defeat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth was more comprehensive by 21,000 votes. Walsh made a name for himself by raising the spectre of more 9/11 type of attacks while conducting public meetings and on the campaign trail, and claiming that Muslim terrorists were “everywhere”.

 Chip Cravaack, a Republican representative from Minnesota who calls all mainstream American-Muslim groups “terrorist organizations”, also lost his seat. Republican representative from North Carolina Sue Myrick, who referred to young American-Muslims interning on Capitol Hill as “spies” and Muslim convenience store operators a national security threat, chose not to run this year. Tea Party favourite Michelle Bachmann, who lost badly in the race for Republican presidential nomination earlier this year, won her House of Representative seat from Minnesota by a margin of less than 2 percent.

 “These encouraging results clearly show that mainstream Americans reject anti-Muslim bigotry by candidates for public office and will demonstrate that rejection at the polls,” CAIR’s Awad said. “This election witnessed an increased political awareness and mobilisation effort among American-Muslims that dealt a major blow to the Islamophobia machine.”

 Showing the Way

 The results came on the heels of the Republican presidential primaries in which none of the sharply anti-Muslim candidates including Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry fared well, and a presidential campaign that was refreshingly devoid of anti-Muslim rhetoric from all sides. While terrorism was an issue, particularly after the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, not even Romney called it “Islamic” terrorism. Even “Islamic extremism” was rarely used. This is a far cry from 2004 and 2008, when “Islamic terrorism” was an acerbic electoral issue and the biggest chink in Obama’s armour was not his race but his middle name Hussein.

 Clearly, as Awad points out, there has been a remarkable change in how mainstream America perceives Muslims and Islam remarkable enough to influence electoral rhetoric and results even when Muslims themselves form a minuscule percentage of the electorate. This change has gone hand-in-hand with American-Muslims’ large scale engagement with mainstream politics and willingness to think and feel as Americans rather than simply as Muslims reflected in how closely aligned Muslim voters’ concerns are with the rest of the country.

 In his first term as President, Obama stopped using his Muslim middle name, failed to keep some of the his pre-election promises of special interest to Muslims (such as closing down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and bringing peace in the Middle East), and did precious little to actively court Muslim support. But by simply turning the country’s attention away from the divisive issues of the past and focusing them on healthcare, jobs and economic revival, he has played a crucial role in helping American-Muslims begun their journey back to the mainstream of American society. Muslims have responded by engaging civically and politically.

 To be sure, problems remain and dichotomies persist. Just as 2008 did not bring an end to anti-black racism in America, so 2012 has not closed the chapters of Islamism and Islamophobia. But the last four years do show the way forward not just for the next four years in America, but for Muslims everywhere. Every society faces fractures, every minority (including those in Muslim-dominated societies) suffers from some degree of discrimination. But recriminations, rabble rousing and reactionary politics do not do the trick: the way to deal with these problems is self-evaluation, civic engagement and democratic participation.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/saif-shahin,-new-age-islam/muslim-voters-turn-out-in-droves-for-barack-‘don’t-call-me-hussein’-obama/d/9267

 

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