FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A week after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President
Bush removed his shoes and stepped into a quiet mosque in Washington, D.C.
Hate crimes against Muslims had begun to crackle across the country and the
visit was meant to forestall further retaliatory violence…

Three years later, with the presidential campaigns in their final frenetic
stage, the sentiment has shifted. Citing lengthy and humiliating airport
checks, detentions and taunts, many Arab Americans say they’ll be voting
for Sen. John Kerry on Tuesday, and not Bush, in the hopes that he will
reverse the racial profiling that has shadowed their communities…

Polls show a virtual sea change in political allegiance among Arab
Americans and Muslims who voted decisively for Bush four years ago, partly
because his emphasis on family values was a snug fit with their own
conservative leanings. A Project MAPS/Zogby International poll released
last month found 76 percent of Muslim Americans supported Kerry over Bush,
compared with 2000 when Bush garnered 42 percent of the Muslim vote versus
31 percent for Democrat Al Gore.

While their numbers are not huge in swing states, leaders in the Arab
American community are fond of pointing to the meager 537 votes that swayed
the last presidential election. When every vote counts, they say, this
sector of disgruntled voters counts in a big way.

“The civil rights issues have kind of alienated the Muslim community, from
the Patriot Act to the war on Iraq,” said Ahmed Bedier, a spokesman for
Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, referring to
post Sept. 11 legislation that handed federal agents greater access to
private records in their hunt for terror suspects. “It’s not necessarily
that people think it will be any better with Kerry … but they want to try
something different…’


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