The word was out in mosques, community parties and Islamic schools, Ramadan feasts all over Pittsburgh: get the vote out. Why would a normally sleepy Muslim community thrust itself into the forefront of the most crucial election in recent history? Would it matter? Apparently it did.

The Muslim community of Pittsburgh, estimated at about 10,000, worships in eight or nine mosques. The community is ethnically diverse. South Asians are the biggest group, followed by African- Americans, and then Arabs. The largest mosques are in Monroeville and in Oakland. The former is called MCCGP Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and the latter is named Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. South Asians and East Europeans frequent the Monroeville mosque. This part of the community is remarkably wealthy, its core support coming from professionals, particularly physicians employed by the mammoth University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the smaller Allegheny General health system. Lexuses, BMWs are parked in rows outside the Monroeville mosque that houses the Sunday school. Many children attend private schools, and dinner conversations frequently turn to investment options. . .

The Muslim community teetered last fall on a delicate line between voter education and endorsing candidates. According to Saleh Waziruddin, of the Al -Nur Islamic center and secretary to the Islamic council , there was a conscious nationwide effort to mobilize the Muslim vote. He cited two challenges: Mosques are non -profit organizations and are not allowed to endorse any candidates, and mosques are casually organized. There are no accurate member lists. Secondly, irregular mosque attendance does not allow for actual head counts. Some members may attend two mosques. Mainstream politics is still a distant reality. Elections tend to bypass the community. Most immigrant members generally struggle to differentiate between Democrat and Republican, or they puzzle over the term gubernatorial.

National research shows that Muslim voters overwhelmingly went over to the Democratic side, as the Iraq war progressed. A Council of American Islamic Relations survey of 2006 suggests that 55% of Muslims surveyed felt the war on terror had turned into a war on Islam. Three Rs galvanized Pittsburgh’s Muslim community into action; Republicans, Rick and Ramadan. The timing of the election proved providential. As if the Iraq war was not nightmarish enough, the black smoke rising above Beirut and the apathetic pace of the ceasefire was seared into Muslim consciousness. The height of the election campaign and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a month of fasting, coincided. Mosque attendance peak during this month, emotions rise to fever pitch, and Muslims are more likely to donate time and money. The faithful believe that good deeds during Ramadan are rewarded greatly. A hawkish Republican agenda, which Santorum seemed to personify to Muslims, fueled sentiment that Muslims needed to help bring about a change. Omer Slater, former president of Greater Pittsburgh’s Islamic council, said, “Santorum’s highly transparent Islamaphobia made him a target for most Muslims.”


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