More Muslim Americans Elected to Office in 2004
By Hazem Kira
Newark, CA

More American Muslims have been elected to public office in 2004 than in previous years despite the wave of Islamophobic attacks and stereotyping. The biennial report issued by the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) documents four main trends: steady gain for Muslim candidates, highest-ever American Muslim voter turnout, highest bloc vote percentage in the nation, and a diversification of political affiliations.

The American Muslim Alliance (AMA), a civic education and leadership training organization with 101 chapters nationwide, has historically maintained the record of Muslim participation and Muslim candidates.

Muslims candidates ran for a variety of offices at local, state and federal levels with the exception of the presidency and the governorships. A comparison of the performance of Muslim candidates in 2000, 2002, and 2004 offers the following: about 100 Muslims ran for various public offices in 2004, a modest improvement over less than 70 Muslim candidates in 2002, but still far less than the all-time high of 700 candidates in 2000.

Results for off-year elections in 2001 and 2003 have been added to aggregate results for 2002 and 2004, respectively. The ratio of success shows a significant rise: It was 21 percent in 2000 and 28 percent in 2002 and close to 50 percent in 2004.

The very fact that these candidates ran and won in an environment hostile to Muslims is a credit to their desire and ability to serve for the greater public good. “It speaks well of the Muslim candidates— it says they have something to offer. It also speaks well of fellow Americans— it says they are willing to give a fair chance to any qualified candidate,” AMA Chair Dr. Agha Saeed said.

Two Muslims, Arif Khan (Libertarian-Wisconsin), and Dr. Mohammad H. Said (D-Washington State), ran for US Senate. Mr. Khan lost in the general election, while Dr. Said lost in the primary.

Similarly, two Muslims, Maad Abu-Ghazalah, (D-CA) and Dr Inam Rahman, (R-Hawaii) ran for US Congress. Both lost in the primaries.

Most Muslim candidates ran as Democrats, while roughly 25 per cent ran as Republicans, and one per cent each as Libertarian and Green. Interestingly, most of these candidates come from a business background. There are hardly any lawyers, political scientists, economist, or urban planners among them. Dr. Muhammad Ali Chaudhry, elected Mayor Bernards Township, New Jersey is a former Chief Financial Officer for a major communication company.

Two Muslims, Akhtar Sadiq (D- Georgia), Abdul Akbar (D- Georgia), ran for state senate but did not make it this year. Ferial Masry, (D-CA) a Muslim woman running for state assembly joined the race late as a write-in candidate but won the primary elections and received 41 percent of the popular vote in the general election. Among those who did not make it she received the highest percentage of votes.

Of the candidates who won state office three are Democrats: Rodney Hubbard and Yaphet El-Amin from Missouri and Larry Shaw from North Carolina; one is a Republican: Saghir Tahir from New Hampshire. All served previously as state representatives. There are three males and one female. Three are African Americans, while one, Saghir Tahir, is a Pakistani-American. Successful candidates were voted in by a minimum of 60 per cent, which underlines the considerable support they enjoy within their constituency. This is based on data collected by AMA.

Muslim Vote in Primaries
AMA commissioned the ABC Autodial Corporation, a mainstream polling organization, to survey Muslim voting behaviors immediately after Super Tuesday Presidential Primaries. Some key results of the survey follow:
Eighty per cent of eligible Muslim voters were registered, 20 percent were not. Only 37 per cent of those registered did vote in the primaries, while a little over 63 per cent did not.

Most respondents were either unaffiliated with any political party or declined to state their affiliation: of those who did respond 60 percent were Democrats, 29 percent were Republicans, 10 percent Independent, while the remaining belonged to other parties.

Muslim Vote in General Election
Although final numbers of American Muslims who actually voted in 2004 are not available at this time, preliminary studies show a rise in both absolute numbers and percentage of actual to eligible voters. It is estimated that as a result of the combined efforts of major Muslim organizations many more new Muslim voters were registered to vote in 2004. According to AMA post election survey, 21 per cent of Muslims voting in the election 2004 were first time voters. This is consistent with reports published in the mainstream media quoting the University of Maryland researcher, James Gimpel, “registration levels for individuals with Arabic names in places like San Jose, Los Angeles, Tampa and Queens increased dramatically since 9/11.” Because not all Muslims have Arabic sounding names, even Gimpel has undercounted the Muslim vote. However, even he agrees that there has been a dramatic increase in the registration number.

A breakdown of Muslim voters by age compared to national voters yields the following results:

18 – 29 years 26% (Nationwide 17%)
30-44 27% (Nationwide 33%)
45 -59 28% (Nationwide 28%)
60 or older 11% (Nationwide 22%)
Declined to state 8% (Unavailable)

The trends in the Muslim community may be significantly different than the mainstream: In the mainstream, senior citizens vote at a higher percentage than the youth, in the Muslim community it is the opposite. These comparative data indicate the need for greater outreach and work among the older immigrant Muslim voters.

A breakdown of Muslim Voters by Gender and Age showed the following results:
Male Female

18 – 29 years 43% 57%
30-44 70% 30%
45 -59 78% 22%
60 or older 77% 23%

Muslim women voters lagged behind their male counterparts by a ratio of 1 to 2. Though such a ratio is not uncommon among relatively recent immigrant communities, these data specify another area of community education work for national organizations.

Muslim Bloc Vote
According to a number of post election surveys, despite their party affiliations as shown by results from AMA’s post Primary survey, 93 per cent of Muslims voters voted together as a bloc in 2004 compared to 72 per cent in the 2000 presidential elections. As detailed below, this was the highest bloc vote percentage in the nation.

Muslim Vote 93%
Black Bloc Vote 89%
Evangelical Bloc Vote 78%
Jewish Bloc Vote 78%
Veterans Bloc Vote 57%
Hispanic Bloc Vote 55%
Catholic Bloc Vote 52%

The above data for all groups except Muslim is taken from the National Election Pool, created by six major news organizations. The Muslim data was collected by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) in two separate community surveys.

It is important to note that even those who voted for Sen. John Kerry were not necessarily registered Democrats. The self-report party affiliations are the following:

Democrats: 34%
Republicans: 16%
Libertarians: 1%
Unaffiliated: 43%
Declined to state: 6%

The fact that 93 per cent of American Muslim voted together for a common candidate shows that many of them were willing to ignore party affiliations and other sectarian considerations to highlight their common demands for restoration of civil liberties and human rights. It also demonstrates considerable capacity for consensus building and coordination. Many observers believe that this was indicative of the willingness of the majority of the Muslim voters to put community needs ahead of their personal preferences.

Diversification of Political Affiliations

1. Affiliation with parties other than the two traditional parties. American Muslims are demonstrating a newfound maturity as they increase their participation with political organizations other than the two major parties. For example, Mr. Arif Khan in Wisconsin ran as a Libertarian for US Senate. Many Muslims in California volunteered for Green Party candidates such as Matt Gonzalez who ran for Mayor of San Francisco, and Judge Jim Gray, Libertarian, who ran for US Senate in California.

2. Creation of new agendas through understanding and commitment to new issues and coalition building: Just as Muslim Americans seek to further issues of primary concern for their community, such as civil rights, they are drawn through their political alliances to support other issues of concern, common to other parties, such as universal health care, union rights, specific environmental concerns and electoral reform.

3. Acquisition of new forms of consciousness: Expanding their political organizations, as both candidates and voters thereby strengthening their sense of being part of the American mainstream.

4. Development of new skills acquired while working within organized party structures.
Diversification of political affiliations means that Muslims are no longer pigeonholed; nor are they static in their political calculations or conduct. They are learning, growing, expanding by the very fact of their involvement in electoral politics.

By and large the election results show that the American Muslim community has made some fundamental choices: it has rejected the view of passive citizenship in favor of a vibrant and dynamic role and it has rejected margins in favor of the mainstream. Further, it has refused to be marginalized by supporting a third party candidate, but at the same time has refused to adopt opportunism.

Perhaps the most significant progress noted on the political front was the active participation of American Muslims in various political party events. A survey of more than 20 community leaders showed that many engaged in grassroots activities with other political parties, the Green, Democratic, Libertarian or even Republican Party. American Muslims held town hall meetings, mini conventions, and invited members of other parties thus exposing them to the concerns of other 3rd parties, and allowing themselves to share their concerns as well.

The AMA report concludes that full citizenship comes about through active participation in public interest issues—American Muslims have passed the test.
The AMA plans to issue a complete report that shall include local candidates by January 1 2005.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.