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Muslims in U.S. getting involved in politics in increasing numbers

WASHINGTON (BP)–Muslim voters — though relatively few in number — could play a disproportionately big role in a close presidential election.

American Muslims are concentrated in cities such as Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio, in swing states where today’s election could be decided. Experts say there are as many as 6 million Muslims in the United States.

More Muslims are expected to vote this election than ever before. There has been a big change of attitude in the Muslim community to get more politically involved, Salam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council told Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a public television program.

Some Muslims still have religious objections to political involvement, arguing that the Koran forbids it, or they have felt it wouldn’t do any good to vote. But many others interpret the Muslim sacred text as encouraging voting, and they plan to go to the polls, according to news reports.

American Muslims feel they can influence U.S. policy on the Middle East, which they regard as too pro-Israel. Other common concerns are school vouchers and charter schools, sanctions on Iraq, Muslim civil rights, and abortion, a national survey in February found, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Muslim religious leaders are pushing their followers to fill out voter registration cards. Special displays have gone up at mosques around the country this fall urging Muslims to vote. Leaders of several Muslim organizations have banded together to promote voter registration within their communities, according to Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, although most have not offered any guidance on who to vote for.

The profile of American Muslims has been raised in public life in the last several years. Muslim leaders have been welcomed in the White House. Muslim leader Maher Hathout gave a benediction at the Republican National Convention this year, the first Muslim invited to do so by either political party. Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan addressed the American Muslim Council meeting this summer, telling delegates he shares many values with them.

Muslims are divided politically within their own communities. Many are recent immigrants who come from different political backgrounds and ethnic groups and are split in their political affiliations. A significant part of the Muslim community is made up of African Americans, who have voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

Political divisions within the Muslim community were highlighted Oct. 23 when a group of influential American Muslims endorsed Republican George W. Bush for president. The American Muslim Political Action Committee said the Texas governor had promised to address Muslim concerns on domestic and foreign issues. That drew strong protests from another Islamic group during an open news conference, according to WorldNetDaily.

Muslims have become more willing to engage in interfaith relationships. Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, leader of the American Muslim Society and a man known for bringing races and religions together, spoke at an interfaith gathering Oct. 22 in Fort Worth, Texas. His topic was racism that is caused by religion, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Mohammed told the crowd that too often sacred scriptures are used to divide religious people. He drew a link between the Torah, the Bible and the Koran, saying the Jewish and Christian texts provide the foundation for the teachings of the Muslim faith.
Pierce is editor of ReligionToday at the Crosswalk.com news and information site on the Internet. Used by permission.

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  • Larry Pierce