Your Vote: Handle with Care

Posted by on Oct 24th, 2008 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry


MILLIONS of voters across this country, from newly registered young voters to seasoned voters, will converge at designated polling places on November 4th throughout this nation to decide who is fit to be the next president of the United States of America. And, yes, Muslims here in the United States will also be among those millions of voters.

For those of us – Muslims as well as non-Muslims – who will be going home after voting, only to be transfixed to our television sets on the late evening of November, 4th, 2008, we will once again see a plethora of political analysts interpreting statistical data on the number of votes going to either John McCain or Barack Obama. Nonetheless, it is the statistical data alone that will declare the winner of this contest.

What you will not see, however, are the intangibles, the various motivational issues behind each vote. These intangibles are just as important as the vote itself. Each voter carries with them such intangibles as race, gender and religion. Human beings are not robots. Putting this aside, each Muslim must carefully assess each presidential candidate’s views on political issues alone regardless of race, gender or religion. This type of rigorous assessment will ensure clear decision-making that will affect our political, and, in turn, socio-economic welfare here in America. Just as the religion of Islam teaches us not to veer to extremes in matters of religion, we must apply the same rationale when each of us votes on November 4th. We must try not to let variables such as race, gender or religion, tarnish our votes.

That the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is black is no occasion for anyone to suggest that by voting for him on November 4th his tenure as president will elevate the political and socio-economic status of millions of black folks here in America.

Even though many political talking-heads suggest that a large number of black voters will vote for a black candidate, our indigenous Muslim brothers and sisters must resist this impulse. That this turn of events may happen is clear from the heated rhetoric coming out of the McCain campaign as of late that tries to lump Obama’s domestic and international economic vision to socialism, or a view of a political state that aims to distribute wealth evenly among each member of society in order to rectify wrongs perpetrated historically by “oppressors”, who were white, against the “oppressed”, who are non-white. This talk of socialism here in the United States is ridiculous and is as oxymoronic as a human being with no pulse. It negates over fifty years of concerted, painstaking efforts on behalf of the elites of this government to convince us of the “evils” of socialism and why economic socialism is harmful. Ronald Reagan, who proclaimed the Soviet Union as the “evil empire” for its communist slant on economic issues, directly authorized policies aimed at intervening into the political affairs of Caribbean and Latin-American countries that tangentially considered democratic socialism as the best model for their societies. Such a drastic change in American economic policy will certainly not occur. Instead, we must determine which candidate’s economic policy is able to steer the American economy away from future economic melt-downs such as the one we are all experiencing at the moment.

That Sarah Palin is the selected vice-presidential candidate for president is no occasion for Muslims to vote for John McCain. We should see this selection as a ploy on behalf of the McCain campaign to select a female candidate for vice-president who the McCain campaign imagines will transfer a large percentage of Hillary Clinton backers away from voting for Barack Obama. The McCain campaign is clearly exploiting the lingering resentment between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama some months earlier.

Right after Jum’uah prayer at ICNA last week a young Muslim brother who actively immerses himself with political issues of concern to Muslims, Azeem Khan, asked me whether I would speak to a BBC correspondent for Asian affairs about the coming presidential election. The BBC correspondent asked me whether Barack Obama’s insistence that he is not a Muslim is a cause for concern.

There is talk out there that Barack Obama is a “closet Muslim” who discreetly hides his true faith so as not to alienate white voters for now and who will “declare” his Muslim faith to the world when he is elected. I personally don’t think that Barack Obama is a Muslim, even though his father eventually abandoned the faith before his death. Nonetheless, we must also resist the impulse to vote for Barack Obama because he may be a Muslim.

Generally, non-Muslim voters cast their ballots for presidential candidates they think will benefit them on domestic issues like taxes, immigration, heath-care and the environment. Muslims here in America are not immune from such domestic concerns. On average, Muslims have largely integrated themselves into American society fairly well. However, the sole barometer of Muslim societal integration is an economic one; a large percentage of immigrant Muslims are either of the middle-class or wealthy.

But while Muslims and non-Muslims concern themselves with domestic issues at the ballot box, we must choose our candidate for president of the United States with the utmost care. We have a more urgent need to vote in this election because Muslims must think about international issues as well. We have a grave responsibility: to gauge the presidential candidate’s political views on issues affecting the global Muslim Ummah. It is here that Muslims do their homework, carefully.

The terror attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 has undoubtedly re-drawn American foreign policies toward the Middle-East, with the Bush Administration certifying domestic policies aimed at protecting the homeland against future terrorist attacks and promoting political transitions to democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and, if possible, the entire Middle East. With the help of the Bush Administration this government has applied laws that at times unfairly discriminate against Muslims here in America and beyond. As Muslims prepare to vote they must consider carefully which presidential candidate, if elected, will protect Muslim civil liberties here in America by modifying such laws as the government’s ability to monitor telephone conversations. And Muslims must consider each presidential candidate’s position on “extra-territorial rendition”, where this government “round-up” alleged terror suspects around the world and hand them off to other Middle-East allies such as Egypt to do torture. Which candidate, if elected, will fairly prosecute those accused of terrorism, release those who are remotely tied to terrorism and close Guantanamo Bay? And which one is better equipped to restore America’s image throughout the Muslim world?

So for the next week or so let’s all do our homework and carefully select a president that is more closely aligned with our interests.

The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at:

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