December 29, 2003
Election 2004 and Muslim leaders
By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Election 2004 is drawing closer, and traditional powerbrokers for Muslims are trying to develop closer contacts with Democratic candidates on behalf of Muslims. No Muslim has given them a mandate, yet they are keen that on the strength of Muslim votes they at least are seen with a Democratic candidate.
Jim Zogby of Arab American Institute seems to be acting as a broker for Muslim votes for Democratic party candidates. He is viewed by many in the Democratic party as the one who has influence over Muslim votes. The Observer conducted a survey of Muslims in Southern California during the ISNA and MPAC conventions asking people about their views of Jim Zogby, and some 80 percent of the respondents out of 400 who were asked the question didn't know who Jim Zogby was.
Interestingly, there was an Arab-American leadership meeting with Governor Dean in Detroit on December 29. The meeting had a few Muslim organizational leaders. Yet the meeting was not representatives of Muslims. Similarly, other Muslim organizations and leaders are also trying desperately to get in touch with
democratic candidates. Several requests have been submitted to various candidates, but so far only David Kucinich has responded to them favorably.
This style is no different than during the 2000 presidential election, when the Muslim leadership misled the immigrant community by asking it to vote for the Republican Party. Meeting with the presidential candidate is not a big achievement. Thousands of Americans would meet the two parties nominees before the election. The important thing that needs to be communicated to presidential candidates is that Muslim votes matter.
Unfortunately, no Muslim organization in its present set up and activities can claim to even understand the nature of Muslim votes in the country. It does not know the strength of Muslim votes. It has no communication with Muslim voters and it has no agenda that has the input of Muslim voters.
On the basis of a few Internet releases and a few press releases published in ethnic press, the Muslim leadership feels that it has the monopoly of Muslim votes. On the contrary, with its policies, the Muslim leadership is alienating Muslim voters.
During the ISNA convention in Southern California, the Observer asked over 200 participants about their trust level with the Muslim leadership. Some 67 percent said loudly and clearly that they have no trust of current Muslim leadership. Of the remaining 23 percent, some 8 percent that they would support the Muslim
leaders' decisions and the remaining respondents said that they would wait and see.
It is obvious that Muslim voters are not willing to take any chance with their leaders. That is why during the last concluded MPAC convention, more than 67 percent of the 800 voters supported Governor Dean on their own without any guidance issued from their leaders.
The MPAC vote clearly indicates something. First, the Muslim voters will exercise their right to vote in large numbers regardless of their leadership. The second, the Muslim voters are way ahead than their leaders in terms of determining their electoral choice well in advance. Third, they would not listen to the leaders if the leadership takes a decision that is contrary to their decisions.
This shows a major shift in the attitude of Muslim voters. This shift should be noted by Democratic candidates. Thus, rather than meeting Muslim leaders behind closed doors, the candidates should try to speak with Muslim electorates directly in a town hall meeting style. This will bring in Muslims from all walks
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the editor of Minaret and Muslim Observer.