Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Muslim vote is becoming important in narrow election.
Muslims in the US make up less than 1 percent of the population, but they too, like any other group, share the same concerns as most Americans. For many, it’s the economy not foreign policy, that is the deciding factor in choosing whom to vote for.
It may be a Muslim who chooses our next president.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Many Americans assume Muslims are anti-Republican and pro-Obama. However this is not always the case. In 2000, many more Muslims voted for Bush than Al Gore. Although after the war in Iraq, Muslims did flock to the Democrats with ninety percent voting for Kerry and similar numbers for Obama in 2008.
What should be understood is that Muslims are swing voters, and diverse. While many Americans tend to stereotype the group, many American Muslims are modern, cosmopolitan, and politically savvy.
Muslim support for Obama has also waned with the economy. However, Mitt Romney with his hawkish stance on issues in the Middle East does not seem to be making many gains with the demographic either.
Mitt Romney has little support from Muslims because most felt villianaized by the Republican primary process. On multiple occasions, Republican candidates made incendiary statements about Muslims, with Herman Cain going so far as to pledge against appointing Muslims to his cabinet, a violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which prohibits religious tests for political office. For the record, Cain later reversed his position.
At the same time, Newt Gingrich made the claim that the Palestinians were “invented” people.
Michelle Bachmann gained points among constituents, and lost them among Muslims, by proclaiming sharia law as a threat to the US, and professing that Muslims are organizing a stealthy movement to impose the practice on Americans. This in spite of the fact that most American Muslims don’t even practice the strict, ultra-conservative brand of Islam.
As for Romney, he has proclaimed that Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever in establishing peace.” Those remarks were secretly recorded then leaked.
This might suggest that Obama would be the default choice for many Muslims, but that isn’t quite true. Many are upset at his failure to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, despite his promise to do so.
They are also displeased with his lackluster handling of domestic issues, particularly the economy. Muslim-Americans live and work, and pay taxes, the same as all other Americans, which in turn means that they share precisely the same anxieties about everything from gas prices, to the housing market, to employment.
It doesn’t have to be said that Muslims are Americans too — but unlike many Americans, they do not identity with one party or another, which makes them politically difficult to court. Unlike most demographics, it cannot be assumed they are in one camp or another.
Unfortunately, it seems easier for politicians to write off this group to score easy political points with other, larger groups. The Jewish vote, for example, is much larger. Meanwhile, the Republican base tends to be hawkish when it comes to affairs in the Muslim world, hence the inflammatory rhetoric during the Republican primaries.
Meanwhile, the Democrats risk alienating votes they need when they court Muslims. Case and point would the Jewish vote in New York state. After a series of conciliatory statements in the Middle East, Jewish support for Obama in New York evaporated famously with the loss making front-page news in some boroughs of the city.
Ultimately, the 2012 election could be decided by the Muslim vote after all. With both candidates holding razor thin margins over one another in different swing states, it becomes increasingly apparent the next election could be decided by a handful of votes in one or two states.
And who’s holding those votes? Muslims are.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.