Absar Chowdhury of Sterling cast his ballot for George W. Bush in 2000
because the Republican candidate vowed to stop the use of secret evidence
in deportation hearings, opposed abortion and “looked like he was religious.”
But the Bangladesh-born Muslim said he will vote for Democrat John F. Kerry
next week because President Bush has disappointed him in several ways. In
particular, Chowdhury cited an erosion of civil liberties, including the
continuing use of secret evidence, and the war in Iraq, which has left
thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,100 Americans dead.
“He was saying that he was religious, but the Fifth Commandment says we
shall not kill,” said Chowdhury, 45, a computer center shift manager.
Chowdhury is emblematic of a dramatic switch among Muslim voters. Four
years ago, 42 percent of them voted for Bush. But in this year’s race, they
are expected to vote overwhelmingly for his Democratic opponent, with one
recent poll showing 76 percent of the Muslim vote going to Kerry and 7
percent to Bush.
“For American Muslims, there has been a sea change in political alignment
and outlook since 9/11,” said Zahid H. Bukhari, director of Georgetown
University’s Project MAPS, a long-term research project on American
Muslims, which commissioned Zogby International to conduct the recent poll.
“No matter what Bush says to Muslims right now, it doesn’t matter because
he’s broken so much trust with our community,” said Nabil Yousef, 21, of
Arlington, a Georgetown University senior who started
www.muslimsforKerry.com in August.
The election also has sparked unprecedented Muslim activism. After months
of voter registration drives and candidate forums, Muslim organizations are
arranging transportation for voters on Election Day, phone banks to get out
the vote and volunteers to explain ballot designs. Mosque prayer leaders,
or imams, are encouraging their congregations to vote, and Muslim leaders
anticipate the highest-ever turnout in their community.
“Muslims are probably the most sensitized and motivated group to vote this
year,” said Mukit Hossain of Sterling, president of the Muslim American
Political Action Committee, which endorsed Kerry. “Voter registration is in
the 90 percent range, and I would be very surprised if almost 80 percent of
those people don’t come out to vote…