Future Agenda of American Muslims

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Now that the election is over, the immediate question cropping up in the mind of Muslims is how they are going to be treated during President Bush’s second term?

Ibrahim Hooper, Communication Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), says President Bush in his victory speech said that he will reach out to the whole nation. “A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us.” Hooper said: “We take his words and hope that he will take this opportunity to reach out to the Muslim community. We also encourage Muslims to make a fresh start with the Bush administration.” However, he believes that building bridges with the Muslim community will depend on how the Bush aides will advise him.

Dr. Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), believes that during his second term President Bush’s approach towards the Muslim community will depend a lot on who he appoints in his second administration. There is talk about Attorney General Ashcroft leaving and also National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice and some of the newcons. We have to see and watch. If there is a change in his team then we expect a change in approach to the Muslim community. He said that the Muslims did not get the result what they wanted from the election. “Muslims should do some soul searching particularly about the Christian right which had a great impact on this election for the Republicans. According to the New York Times, nearly one-quarter of the electorate was made up of white evangelical and born-again Christians and they voted four to one for President Bush.

Dr. Al-Marayati agreed with the suggestion that that many Muslim organizations are active just during the election season. It is necessary that they should have a permanent agenda to motivate and activate the community to participate in the political process by joining Democratic, Republican or any other party. “The Muslims should be involved in political activities at the local level since all politics is local,” Dr. Al Maryati added.

Dr. Agha Saeed, President of the American Muslim Alliance and the American Muslim Task Force stressed that the American Muslims were not only penetrated but were able to put civil rights on the political agenda and the Muslim votes on the political map of the country.About the future role of Muslim organizations, he said that the Muslim vote has provided an immediate opening for Muslims to build US-wide civil rights coalition.

Rasheed Ahmed, President of Muslim Civil Rights Center, was of the view that first of all the Muslims should study the results of the election and analyze the reasons of the results. “What are the underlying issues for these results and how these issues impact the Muslims in America and the world at large?” should be studied.

Samina Faheem Sundas, Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice, argued that the best way to protect our civil rights is to build bridges with other communities. “The Muslim organizations need to do grassroots work and maintain the momentum and enthusiasm in the community about participation in the national political process by continuously mobilizing the community to be active in the local politics,” she remarked.

Khalid Saeed, American Muslim Voice Director for Northern California, said instead of having a doom and gloom picture, we should make plans to volunteer our time, efforts, and if possible, money ,in order to push an agenda that we would like for this country.

On the future political strategy for the Muslim community, Eric Vickers, Communications Director of the American Muslim Council, said that Muslim organizations should continue to organize and educate the Muslim community and the American community about Islam. “The community should press the President for a meeting with the Muslim leadership.”

Shafi Refai, President of the United Muslims of America, believes that Muslims should be involved in both parties.” We are now an outsider. Every four years we get up and vote. In American there is a virtually two party system and we have to get involved in both parties.” He went to say that Muslims are socially conservative and politically liberal. Socially they are closer to the Republicans and politically to the Democrats. “Now the question is, what is the solution? I think, the best way to resolve this issue is that we join both parties.”

Syed Rifat Mahmood, a Muslim political leader and former congressional candidate, argued that we should now think about building the political base of our community. “We should get out of rhetoric and go to the practical field.”He was of the view that the Muslims should stop complaining and start working. “We have to be vocal and proactive. We should try change the Bush policies particularly the reformation of Patriot Act.”

Syed Mahood went on to say: “We should encourage people to work in both the major political parties. We should become part of the political process. We should gain a voice inside the party policy decision making.”

He said that the Muslim organizations are seen active only at the election time. “From today we should plan for the future political course and not just few months before each election.”

(Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: www.amperspective.com)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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