Muslim American Voters
By Dr Aslam Abdullah
Financially, the Muslim Americans are perhaps in the top three religious communities; in education, they may be the second most educated group, culturally, they may be the most diverse community and politically, they may be the weakest group in America.
Estimates of their population vary from 3 million to 12 million depending on whom you are talking to. The number of registered Muslim voters also varies from half a million to 6 million. The number of those who regularly vote in elections also varies depending on the survey and the sponsors of the survey. Some suggest that 30 percent registered Muslims vote and the others say that 70 plus percent vote.
In the forthcoming elections in certain states, the Muslim voters may play a significant role if mobilized properly.
Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado are some of the states where they may be effective in presidential elections.
In elections for the senate, in Nevada, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, their votes may decide the outcome.
In house elections, there are 38 congressional districts in New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, California and Texas, where their votes may count significantly.
But how can one make this analysis when the number of Muslim voters in these states is not accurately known.
There are two main reasons for this.
1. The victory margin in these states would be narrow and a few thousand extra votes might make a big difference.
2. The number of mosques and Islamic centers is significant in these states and congressional districts. One can assume that some 40 percent of all those who attend the worship services are registered voters. If 60 percent of the registered Muslim voters vote, they can definitely impact the election outcome.
So what should be the Muslim electoral strategy?
1. To register as many Muslim citizens as voters as one can. It's important that in every public function that Muslims hold, voter registration should be given a priority.
2. To make use of early voting facility in states where it is available. People can either send their ballots through mail or submit them to designated agencies.
3. To ensure that every eligible voter comes out on the election day to vote.
4. To volunteer in local electoral office the candidate they are supporting.
5. To precinct walk with others to campaign for the candidate.
An increased involvement would enable them to be part of the electoral process and may minimize their vulnerability to Islamophobes who might use election results to intimidate or harass them.
Doubtlessly, there is a significant section of the Muslim community that does not believe in the electoral process and that regards election as a useless activity. There is no need to engage them in any discussion on the issue on either religious or intellectual grounds. They have made up their mind and they would not change unless circumstances force them to review their point of view. It would be a waste of time and efforts. It is better to work with those who understand the significance of participation in elections.
Of course there would be individuals and groups who would compare Islam and democracy and would argue that Islam is anti-democracy because sovereignty belongs to God only. It is better to leave them to their own intellectual stagnation.
The November election is crucial for the country and the future direction of America would be set by the one who is elected. There are two distinct personalities and streams of thoughts. For someone who believes in the US Constitution, the choice among the two candidates is not difficult to make. However, what is important is how the choice is reflected in ballots. What remains to be seen is who would take the time off to visit the pooling booth to cast his or her votes, because in electoral politics, this is what it means.