Americans Elected to Office in 2004
By Hazem Kira
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
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
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
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
A breakdown of Muslim Voters by Gender and Age showed
the following results:
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
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
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
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
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.