Why should Arab and Muslim Americans vote for Obama?
By Aladdin Elaasar — Islam has come to the forefront of American presidential elections this year. With allegation that Barak Obama is a Muslim, or an Arab- which he is not- fear has been used by his opponents to tie him to some foreign scary thing. But it is not working. The more serious issues this year for the American voters are of course the economy, the Iraq war, health care, education and other serious nagging issues. Smear campaigns and digging for dirt proved not to work with savvy American voters.
Barak obama is as American and Christian as anybody in America, and he made his case clear that he really has a solid plan for America.
But, how about the three million Arab-Americans and seven million Muslim-Americans? Whom would they vote for this year, and could their votes make an impact on the outcome of this year’s election?
This bloc played a key role in Bush’s 2000 election victory. After surveying the community and making overtures to both Bush and his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, the American Muslim Political Coordinating Council Political Action Committee (AMPCC-PAC), comprising the four major American-Muslim organizations—the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslim Council (AMC), CAIR, and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), recommended that its members vote for Bush.
That was then. But what did Arab and Muslim Americans get from eight years of George W. Bush and the Republicans? Arab and Muslim Americans have seen their civil rights deteriorate under this administration: the patriot Act that made them an easy target for government intrusion, Sneak and Peek that gives the power to government agents to snoop into their private lives, calls, records and even their homes. They have seen the Iraq War and Islamophobia more than ever in public discourse. They have seen being an Arab and a Muslim g used to scare people in an offensive way.
Last week, for example, a Republican Coalition released a document in which they use the term Pro-Arab as a pejorative accusation. For his part, Rush Limbaugh has joined in by declaring that Obama is in fact an Arab American! Then, last Friday, after a supporter called Senator Barack Obama “an Arab”, Senator John McCain came to the defense of his political opponent by saying, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man and citizen…” From this we are left to infer that an Arab man is less then a “decent family man.”
We are disturbed by the degree to which ‘Arab’ has become the metaphorical mud to sling against your opponent. Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, says, “Enough is enough! From the beginning of this campaign there have been those who have used ‘Muslim’ and ‘Arab’ in an effort to smear Barack Obama. This exploitation of bigotry and the stoking of racist fir es to forward an agenda is reprehensible. This is not only offensive to Arab Americans, but to all Americans. As any ethnic group who has ever been used to scare the electorate knows, this is a dangerous game that, tragically, can get innocent people hurt”.
“And while we are pleased to see that the senator is trying to dispel rumors about Senator Obama, we feel the need to point out that Arab-Americans are also decent men and women with full rights of citizenship as enumerated under the Constitution. Arab Americans are part of the great melting pot that is this country’s strength. We work towards peace in the Middle East. We raise our sons and daughters to be model citizens of this nation. We serve this country with honor. The suggestion that any ethnic group is treacherous and Anti-American is unacceptable, dangerous, and unbecoming of such a great nation”, says Zoghby
According to the figures of the Council on American Islamic relations, CAIR, that 78 percent of Muslims voted for George W. Bush in the year 2000. In Florida, the most crucial state in the last elections, exit polls showed that 91 percent of the 60,000 Muslim Americans who voted supported Bush.
How would the young Arab and Muslim Americans vote this year? Hamed Nasr, a young college student says: “How can anyone vote republican unless their own family is running? They have buried America in what is supposed to be their strengths- Oil, War and Big Business!! I mean really if my favorite actor, sports star was republican and a one legged dinosaur was democratic; I am voting democratic after the last 8 years of drudgery. Funny, no one wanted to give Clinton credit, but we had the best economy with a surplus and now Bush has us at the bottom of the ocean”.
As someone who studies their voting patterns, my guess is they’re now likely to support Senator Obama, says Jen’nan Ghazal Read, an associate professor of sociology and global health at Duke University, and is a Carnegie Scholar studying Muslim American political assimilation.
“Muslim Americans weren’t always so politically active. Before Sept. 11, 2001,=2 0the Muslim American community – largely made up of affluent, well-assimilated, residentially integrated people – was content to enjoy the benefits of living in a pluralistic, democratic society without getting too involved in politics. Who could blame them? Many originated from countries where religion and politics didn’t mix very well. Those who did get involved in politics tended to vote on issues of the day just like other Americans. In 2000, this translated into overwhelming support for George W. Bush, whose social conservative values resonated with Muslim Americans, which ironically put them on the same side as the Christian right that calls for intolerance towards Muslims. Read believes that Arab and Muslim-Americans could swing the election this year in favour of Obama”, says Jen’nan Ghazal Read.
About the Author
Aladdin Elaasar is a syndicated columnist and lecturer. Some of his writings are: “Iraq, the State and Terrorism”; where he predicted the downfall of former Dictator Saddam Hussein. Elaasar also wrote: Silent Victims: The plight of Arabs and Muslims in Post 9/11 America. And “The Last Pharaoh: Mubarak and the Uncertain Future of Egypt in the Volatile Mid East”and “Barracuda: The Unauthorized Biography of Sarah Palin: What You Do Not Know and Should Know about America’s Potential Vice President”. Elaasar has been a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs on several local American TV and Radio networks and media and cultural consultant since 1992. Email him at: email@example.com
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
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