Sunday, February 5, 2012

Does the American Muslim vote count in 2012?

During President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he was hopeful and positive; his speech, like most of his speeches, ignited a fire amongst those watching. One felt a sense of pride and hope as he spoke about the state of the country and his future plans. And while he addressed all areas he could, he may have missed out on a group.

President Obama mentioned the Hispanic/Latino population in the country and the African American population; he also extended strengthened support to the United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East, Israel.
And while I understand that the president cannot possibly mention all issues in just an hour, (more like an hour and four minutes) he did not mention anything about the Muslim vote in America.

Now, I know the Muslim vote only counts for a small percentage of votes, but my question is this: is the Muslim American vote of any importance in the 2012 election year?

It’s no surprise that a decade after 9/11, Muslims in America face more or less the same hate crimes and bigoted comments from the average American. There have been many incidents that even encourage bigotry and discrimination towards Muslims in America, the latest being the NYPD police commissioner showing over 100 times a video called the “Third Jihad” to the anti-terror force. Is that not going to create any animosity towards Muslim Americans?

When Lowe’s pulled its advertising from the TLC show All American Muslim, there was a huge uproar from the Muslim community. Even politicians got involved, such as Chris Murphy, a Democratic representative from Connecticut. He too pointed out the stark bigotry Muslim Americans face in the United States and how it is unnecessary and un-American.

Other than that, Newt Gingrich has repeatedly and vehemently claimed that the biggest threat to the national security of the United States is the rise of radical Islam. In one way I agree with him; radical Islam can hurt any country, just like any radical interpretation of any religion or ideology.

Such as the radical interpretation Newt takes on why African American’s like living on food stamps. He thinks they haven’t been “taught” how to get a job, and if elected, he will take time out of his busy schedule of building a base on the moon, teaching them how to get a job.

Now, there are a little less than two million Muslims in the United States today. Muslims are about 0.6% of the American population according to the CIA World Factbook. In 2010, there were over two million Muslims in the country, amounting to 0.8% of the population, but that number has dropped.

So, is 0.6% of a demographic going to make it or break it for President Obama? Or will we be under the radar when it comes to getting the American public’s votes?

I know election time can be tricky. You need to reach out to the larger groups in the mix to get people to vote for you. Muslim American’s may not be as large a group as any other, but they are a group that should be encouraged.

Like any other minority in this country, 1.6 million people feel that they count and that their needs are as important as their fellow citizens’. It is hard to ignore a group of 1.6 million but it does happen more often than not. And it’s not only the Muslims who suffer. Look at how the gay community has had to struggle in this country – which is a shock, because the United States gives everybody a fair playing field.

America, through its constitution and policies, has allowed for people to come together and to voice their opinions, religions, and expressions regardless of whatever they may be. Truthfully, there are only a few countries that provide such an open platform. Therefore, minority groups have the opportunity to take advantage of the accessibility of the system they have in this country, and many already have .

It’s actually an amazing system. But through racism, discrimination, bigotry, xenophobia and misunderstanding, people can feel quite cornered and discriminated against. And so, through political encouragement, community understanding and societal changes, we as a people, including citizen and politicians, can change that.

Through mutual respect, the Muslim American vote can actually make a difference and can be counted as a vote that matters – all 0.6% of it.