Rashid: Don’t take your right to vote for granted

By: QASIM RASHID | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Published: October 30, 2012

The presidential debates are history, leaving us cherishing Big Bird, binders full of women and horses and bayonets.

America’s future now rests in the voters’ hands. Yet, about 90 million of us won’t vote this November — a trend that stretches back for decades. Americans have not broken the 60 percent voter turnout barrier for a presidential election since 1968.

For midterm elections, we haven’t broken the 40 percent barrier since 1970. The “40-year-high” 2008 turnout was still an abysmal 57 percent.

And I’ve certainly played my part in this abysmal turnout. This November is my first time voting in a presidential election, despite my third opportunity to do so. So what changed my mind? The Founding Fathers? The high stakes? The barrage of political ads airing in my swing state of Virginia?

The answer is none of the above. I find political ads annoying. Let’s not kid ourselves — stakes are always high in a presidential election. And while I love my country, something about our Founding Fathers shedding their blood to vote while destroying Native Americans takes the air out of my sail.

So why vote? Well, let me explain with an analogy. Think, for a moment, about your religious beliefs. Perhaps you are a conservative Christian. Maybe you’re a reformed Jew. You could be Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, a pagan, Buddhist, or perhaps an atheist. Now, contemplate your reaction if you went to the polls to vote but were turned away on account of your faith or faithlessness — and nothing else.

Imagine the anger, humiliation and helplessness you’d feel.

Now, let’s add some salt to the wound. Imagine if you could vote, but it meant you had to sign a form first, declaring your own heresy. For Christians the form might declare, “I, ______, hereby declare Jesus Christ to be false and heretical.” (God forbid.) Muslims might be forced to write, “I, ______, declare that Muhammad was not a Prophet of God.” (Again, God forbid.) Atheists may have to declare, “I, ______, declare that I believe in God as my savior and consider anyone who rejects God to be a liar destined for hell.” (God…er…the Constitution forbid such compulsion.) Yet, if that were all it took for you to vote, would you do it?

I didn’t think so.

But as a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, this is the reality I would face at the poll booth in Pakistan — along with roughly 4 million other Pakistani Ahmadi Muslims. For some 30 years now, Pakistan has effectively disenfranchised Ahmadi Muslims solely because we believe the long-awaited Messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Rest assured, I am not about to preach dogma to you. But this background puts in perspective this grotesque human rights violation.  Read more.

Categories: Americas, United States

2 replies

  1. Great piece! My reason to vote exactly, because I CAN! My prayers are with our Ahmadi brothers & sisters who don’t even have their basic right : to live without fear, let alone vote!!

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