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