Dr. Abdul Raheman Nakadar, a retired cardiologist and political activist, says he finds a particular aspect of the 2008 campaign for the U.S. presidency curious.
Why, Nakadar asks, are the campaigns of Senators Barack Obama and John McCain not reaching out to Muslim leaders in Metro Detroit, like campaigns in elections past, to arrange for public meetings and campaign appearances?
“Any candidate should address the issues of American society, not a particular religion,” said Nakadar, the publisher of The Muslim Observer, who has worked to get local Muslim voters to polls in past elections. “But when you ask a certain group for support, then you must. I would have expected both of them to reach out.”
Some in Metro Detroit, with one of the largest populations of Muslims nationwide, perceive the 2008 election as a regression. Unlike 2000 and 2004, neither candidate of major parties is meeting publicly with imams. Nor are they vying to appear in mosques, despite visits to churches and synagogues.
Spokesmen for McCain and Obama say the candidates are addressing issues of interest to Muslim voters. But many local Muslims say the dearth of attention and negative portrayals of Islam in the campaigning leaves them, at best, ignored in an election in which a woman and an African-American have shattered historic barriers as candidates.
They point to specific strategies by the campaigns to appeal to evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews, and say: Why not us?
Some say they may support a third-party candidate or stay home on Election Day.
Many see an abiding prejudice. Persistent rumors brand Obama, who is a Christian, a Muslim. McCain recanted a claim that a Muslim should not be president.
Muslim leaders say they must fight to maintain the gains of generations of American Muslims who, like other religious, racial and ethnic groups, struggled to secure a redoubt in American political life.
“McCain and Obama are not saying anything about Muslims and Arab Americans, and we are being discriminated against every day,” said Jana Musleh, 18, of Westland, who is working with the nonpartisan Arab American Institute to turn out the Arab vote. “They are not saying anything about our issues.” . . .
By and large, Muslim issues aren’t that different than those of other voters. According to a poll conducted for the Council on American Islamic Relations this year, the top issues for them are education, civil rights, health care, jobs and the economy and relations with the Muslim world. (MORE)