Major American Muslim groups gave what they called a “qualified
endorsement” Thursday to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry,
urging Muslims to vote for him while calling his platform on civil rights

The American Muslim Taskforce had been leaning against backing a candidate,
but some members felt not making an endorsement could inadvertently help
President Bush.

In 2000, a committee comprised mainly of the same U.S. Muslim groups
endorsed Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore, because Bush had
indicated he would address their concerns about the use of secret evidence
in deportation hearings.

But the task force said in its statement Thursday that the Bush
administration has “been insensitive to the civil liberties and human
rights” of Muslims since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“American Muslims are being treated like second-class citizens,” they said.

Yet, the group also expressed disappointment in Kerry, urging Muslims to
vote for him only as a “protest vote.” Kerry “has so far failed to
explicitly affirm support for due process, equal justice and other
constitutional norms,” they said.

Muslim leaders want a rollback of several parts of the USA Patriot Act,
which gave the government broad powers to monitor citizens. Bush says the
changes are critical for national security.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington civil rights group that belongs to the task force, said the group decided to include its critique about Kerry in the endorsement to send a message to the Massachusetts senator.

“We want him to be very clear in his adherence to due process and the Constitution,” Awad said. “It’s also a message for Bush that he lost the support he enjoyed in 2000.”


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