Demonstrates Clarity of Purpose, Strategic Skill
The American Muslim
Task force on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) inked
itself in history on October 21, 2004, when it announced
its “protest vote” against the oppressive laws of
the Bush administration and a “qualified endorsement
for Senator John Kerry.” According to a Zogby Poll,
at least 81% of the American Muslims support AMT’s
election plan. Another, more recent poll by CAIR
shows that due to this endorsement the Muslim support
for Kerry may exceed 90% of the community vote.
As this well thought
out and equally well articulated statement percolates
in national and international news, the political
pundits to a large extent will have realized its
significance, and will continue to analyze it for
years to come. It is noteworthy, that during this
election year every time news regarding the American-Muslim
vote had been reported, reference to the 2000 bloc
vote was also made. Recently, October 22, 2004,
The New York Times reported: “Four years after endorsing
for President George W. Bush a coalition of American
Muslim groups is urging Muslims to cast a ‘protest
vote’ for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.”
This decision was made
after elaborate consultation with the Muslim grassroots
activists through 50 plus town hall meetings in
every major city of the United States. By holding
these town hall meetings and by asking community
members for detailed input through a four-page questionnaire,
the AMT has institutionalized the Muslim grassroots
and fully democratized its decision-making.
The AMT’s endorsement
strategy and conception of election politics can
be summarized in 12 points:
AMT has achieved and maintained unity of the ten
largest organizations in the face of adversity.
This unity is democratically derived and sustained.
Every decision was made unanimously.
has demonstrated clarity in purpose, determination
in negations with various presidential campaigns,
skill in setting the terms of discourse, and agility
in developing a complex and sophisticated stance.
Visualizing elections as an opportunity for agenda-setting,
coalition-building, capacity-formation, negotiation,
and self-empowerment, the AMT has succeeded in every
one of these areas, though not to the same extent.
The AMT has bridged the gap between the immigrant
and indigenous Muslims considerably, though definitely
not completely. The issues listed at in the concluding
paragraph of the AMT Endorsement - “civil liberties,
human rights, international peace and justice, jobs,
education, health care, economic development of
inner cities, and sound foreign policy” - are a
clear example of an emergent unified and all-inclusive
The AMT endorsement has received both national and
international coverage. The list includes CNN, ABC
News, FOX News, Al-Jazzera, Al-Arabia, Dubai TV,
ARY (Pakistani) television, Associated Press, Associated
Press of Pakistan, The New York Times, The Washington
Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, News Day
and The Michigan Daily, to name only a few. It is
also being covered by almost all American Muslim
newspapers and radio programs.
The AMT has brought national organizations in sync
with the Muslim community but WITHOUT losing its
ability to calibrate its response to political situations
The AMT has most clearly and precisely defined the
terms of reference and discourse for interaction
with the American mainstream. While 2004 bloc vote
decision tells President Bush that he has lost the
support he got in 2000 due to reneged promises,
Sen. Kerry is also put on notice that the Muslim
vote and support cannot be taken for granted.
The AMT endorsement
shows its agility in fashioning an appropriate response
to both parties by matching Bush administration’s
oppressive laws with a protest vote and by matching
limited support from the Kerry campaign with a ‘qualified’
endorsement. As promised during the ISNA Convention,
the AMT leadership has neither asked the Muslim
community to waste its vote, nor has it compromised
on its principles. An unqualified support would
have meant surrender of Muslim demands for restoration
of civil liberties and human rights.
AMT has endorsed a democratic candidate but without
losing its autonomy or agency. It has retained the
freedom and flexibility to build an effective US-wide
civil rights coalition with other civil libertarian
The AMT has succeeded in putting civil liberties
and human rights on the electoral agenda. The AMT
has also succeeded in putting the Muslim voters
on the political map. Muslim vote in now becoming
an integral part of national voter estimates.
The AMT has won some worthy allies which include
traditional civil rights groups such as ACLU and
NAACP as well as the Green, Libertarian, Independent
and Reform Parties. Regardless of who wins the presidency,
this coalition will help sustain the Muslim community
in its ongoing struggle for civil rights.
The AMT has initiated the process of giving a national
face to the nascent civil rights movement that is
weaving its way through cities and counties of America
by and large unnoticed by the national media. To
date, 354 cities and counties and four states have
passed resolutions asking for complete or partial
repeal of the USA PATRIOT ACT. The AMT is now playing
a leadership role in concatenating these activist
communities into a nationally coordinated network.
12) The AMT has built
a stable bridge to the American mainstream.