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Note: Originally posted on openDemocracy.net, which is an E-zine and discussion forum offering news and opinion articles from established academics and journalists covering current issues in world …
Not Commitment Phobic: I Got Engaged
One campaigner told me at a campaign fundraiser for his candidate “If American Muslims, like you participated in campaigns or voted, then Islamophobic candidates would not make so much headway.” The campaigner is right in some idealistic, inclusive way. But the problem is: this is the long-term strategy. I want a short to mid-term strategy to engage politically—just like any business must have one.
I am not commitment phobic. I got engaged. I served as the interim-Director for a political action committee, Muslim Democrats. Its founder, Abdul Malik Mujahid, followed the lessons learned from other minority groups by establishing a PAC. Meanwhile, many American Muslim organizations continue to “educate” rather than lobby. But advocacy is not enough when concerted, targeted efforts must go beyond snazzy press releases and social media campaigns. Variety in organizational strategy is key. In particular, a variety in TYPES of organizations is key.
In 2009, Rahm Emanuel vacated his seat. I rallied as a “Minority Liaison” to encourage retirees and working people to participate in the 5th District Democratic primary. I remember changing my name from Mehrunisa to “Mary” on the phone just so that potential voters would not hang up the phone on me before I read my call script.
As an American looking towards the primaries, I realize that I need to commit to a party. Voting in the 2012 election is too little too late because acting as minority voice is all about the primaries. However, I am less likely to be committed to a political party because every four years the parties tend to veer more towards centrist politics.
Also, I am also less likely to vote because the recent Gallup study showed that American Muslims are the least ‘politically engaged’ of all its religious counterparts in part because they are the youngest. Coupled with the fact that I am also under 35, I am also less likely to take off time to vote.
Digging deeper: even if I do make it to the primary polls, I am supposed to be less likely to participate in the Republican primary—not just because of my age—but because my minority background tends not to register as Republican.
Two observations challenge this erroneous prediction. First, as an observant American Muslim, I participate politically more than my fellow American Muslims who self-reported that they are not as observant. Ironically, according to a Dartmouth study, though, I should be more likely to vote ‘Republican’ because of my strong affiliation with faith and other “conservative” tendencies, as reported by Gallup’s 2011 study.
Second, election junkies would offer a fair counterpoint: successful, assimilated communities donate to both campaigns so that their interests are always aligned with a winner. Look at the Latin Americans as well as the Jewish Americans.
I’m confused: then why isn’t the Republican party trying to appeal to Muslim American voters—especially since we tend to be younger, the very age range the GOP is disconnected with as we saw in the 2008 election? Continued on openDemocracy.net