Muslim Taskforce Gears up for Elections in 2006, 2008
By Hazim Kira
CA

“I am afraid that now that the elections are over, the major Muslim organizations will busy themselves with other pressing matters and, as far as election are concerned we won’t hear from them for the next four years,” wrote a columnist shortly after the 2004 Presidential Election.
Well, that did not happen because the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), an umbrella group representing 11 national Muslim organizations, had chalked out a four-year action plan that, among other things, entails quarterly town-hall meetings that are to be jointly organized by eleven national organizations; most recent of which was held in Hartford, Connecticut during the Islamic Circle of North American (ICNA) Convention. The next AMT town-hall meeting is scheduled for Saturday, September 3 in Chicago during the ISNA convention.
The main thrust of these meetings is to involve, the community at large in setting up goals and strategies for 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012, identify milestones and establish clear criteria to measure level and ratio of success, help maintain a grassroots-based, bottom-up, democratic decision-making system, and build a clear community-wide about electoral goals and strategies. Moreover, three major developments characterize AMT’S work since the 2004 presidential elections: 1) quarterly town hall meeting in various parts of the United States for the next four years, 2) emphasis on city, county and state and elections, and 3) coalition-building.
Since January 2005, the AMT has formed state chapters in Florida and New York and is currently negotiating similar chapters in New Jersey and Texas. These state chapters are beginning to develop a genuine grassroots activism in the community. This structural expansion is proving to be quite useful. Sensing greater organization and activity among New York Muslims, for example, various mayoral candidates are beginning to pay greater direct and indirect attention to the Muslim community. As reported in the New York Sun,
C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president and one of the mayoral candidates told leaders of the New York Chapter of the American Muslim Taskforce that ”she opposes the Patriot Act” and as mayor would create a more inclusive "New York City, in which Muslims would have more of a voice.”
Cognizant of the role that the American Muslim voters can play in city, state, and federal elections, the AMT Panel told the ICNA audience to keep their eyes on real issues like civil liberties, human rights, war, jobs, and health care. Their four-point, take-home, program is detailed below:
1) Continue with voter registration, especially in those states where off-year elections will be held in 2005.
2) Continue with community education forums and seminars with focus on “ballot literacy”, candidates’ forums and consensus building. “If people don’t know what are they voting for, if they don’t know who they are voting for, then why should they vote,” AMT chair Dr. Agha Saeed said. The purpose of the ballot literacy programs is to make them knowledgeable about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the actual contents of the ballot.
3) Community leaders need to know why people don’t vote. What are the underlying reasons for not going to the polls?
According to a recent Census Bureau survey, time constraint is the single biggest reason given by Americans for not voting. Here is a summary of their findings:
- No time: 21.5%
- Didn’t like candidates: 13%
- Sick or faced emergency: 15%
- Lacked transportation: 4%
- Out of town: 11%
- Polls too long: 1%
- Failed to make it on time: 21.3%
- Declined to State 13. 2
Community leaders were advised to find a suitable response for each of the above obstacles: help those who are going to be out of town, or who are ill, or who cannot get time off from work, to obtain absentee ballots, provide transportation for those who lack transportation, and remind, encourage and car pool with those likely to forget.
4) Help document and publicize the Muslim vote. “A proven record of American Muslim vote - voting in high numbers, together, and for a common purpose - is one of our greatest strengths as citizens of the Unites States,” one of the panelist observed.
The AMT panel at the ICNA Convention was comprised of Imam Talib Abdur Rasheed, Imam Mahdi Bray, Imam Ashraf Uz Zaman Khan, Dr. Ahmad Al-Akhras, Kaleem Khawaja, Magdy Mansour, and Dr. Agha Saeed.
For more information visit AMT at www.AmericanMuslimVoter.Net

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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