Muslim Taskforce’s “Qualified” Support for Kerry

By Lisette Poole

Washington, DC: The American Muslim Taskforce (AMT) has called on an estimated four million Muslim voters to give their “qualified” support to Senator Kerry in protest against the policies of the Bush administration.

AMT is the umbrella organization representing ten largest Muslim groups in the United States.

The announcement, made at a packed press conference at the Washington DC national press club, encouraged Muslim voters to voice their opposition to the “oppressive laws” which have caused American Muslims to be “treated like second-class citizens”.

The AMT endorsement has turned an expected popular vote for Kerry into a bloc vote. “A bloc vote”, says AMT chair Dr. Agha Saeed, “takes place when most members of a group vote together for a common purpose based on a negotiated understanding.” By linking the Muslim vote to the demand for restoration of civil liberties and human rights, the AMT statement has galvanized the Muslim community around a unified action agenda. It has premised the relationship between the Kerry campaign and the Muslim voters on respect for the Bill of Rights.

“Because pluralism is based on partial agreements, support for Sen. Kerry is premised on our overall effort to help restore liberty and justice for all,” the statement reads, implying that this is going to be a performance-based relationship.

The AMT endorsement announced by its chair Dr. Agha Saeed has received international press coverage. It consists of four main parts: repudiation of the Bush administration’s enforcement of the USA PATRIOT Act; appreciation for Ralph Nader and his running mate Peter Camejo for their principled stand in highlighting and fighting denial of civil liberties to minorities; explanation for the qualified endorsement of Sen. John Kerry; and action advisory for the community.

It laments the fact that the Bush administration has taken an aggressive stance against the seven million American Muslims since 9/11. Under The PATRIOT Act thousands of Muslims have been detained without access to lawyers, their homes and personal records searched without warrants, and mosques have been brought under surveillance, community leaders say. In addition some Muslim males in the United States and those visiting as students or tourists are fingerprinted and photographed.

The AMT statement also praises the friends of the Muslim community: Ralph Nader and his running mate Peter Camejo as well as the Green, Libertarian and Reform parties. (All these groups have in addition formed a coalition in California, known as the California Civil Rights Alliance).

The AMT’s qualified endorsement of Sen. Kerry comes on the heels of high-level talks with both parties for the purpose of placing civil liberties on the presidential agenda. The AMT sought to gain support for the repeal, or the modification of the USA PATRIOT Act. A total of 358 cities, counties plus four states have voiced their opposition to unconstitutional laws embodied in the said act. The Kerry campaign, and its co-chair Sen. Edward Kennedy in particular, have acknowledged the merit of AMT’s position, but Kerry has yet to commit himself to specific corrective measures.

The AMT has argued that “our vote is the best guarantee of our civil rights and the best expression of our citizenship.” Under this banner it has taken a firm stance demanding the Kerry campaign’s public commitment to prohibit use of ex post facto laws, and secret evidence and secret trials.

The press conference, attended by major news organizations, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, was addressed by Agha Saeed, Nihad Awad, Hadia Mubarak, and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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