In an electoral campaign system tactically dominated by “niche politics,” major candidates for their party’s presidential nominations are running as fast as they can from one potentially influential constituency.
The constituency is the seven-million-strong American Muslim community. And the reason for the politicians’ flight is the fear of being seen as “soft on national security”. . .
In Michigan, site of this week’s Republican primary contest, one American Muslim businessman said, “They’re all falling over each other to demonize Muslims and Islam. They’re trying to appeal to the power of prejudice and hate. … And it’s brainless. Everybody knows we have a problem with terrorism. Let’s focus on how to deal with it, instead of focusing on a faith or a people”. . .
According to Ibrahim Hooper, strategic communications director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group for Muslims in North America, “It should be clear to any candidate that American Muslims are a key group of voters who defy simplistic labeling and maintain an independent streak that should be taken into account by all those running for public office.”
But this is not happening, says Corey Saylor, CAIR’s national legislative director.
“There is virtually no sign of outreach by candidates for the presidential nomination,” says Saylor. He told us he doubts such outreach will occur until the American Muslim community becomes a lot stronger politically.
To encourage that development, the Washington DC-based not-for-profit organization has recently launched a voter education program with its own website (http://www.cair2008election.com).
CAIR’S Saylor told us, “American Muslims are basically conservative. They voted for George W. Bush in 2000, but switched to John Kerry in 2004, because they felt their civil rights and liberties were under attack” by politicians who equated Islam with terror.
The exact number of American Muslim voters is not known. But Saylor says a conservative estimate can be found in the 400,000-strong database CAIR developed for a 2006 attitude survey of this constituency. (MORE)