The Muslim Vote

Posted by sepoy on October 12, 2004 · 10 mins read

Over on hijabman, he mentioned last week that he was not going to vote for Bush or Kerry. As he lives in Pennsylvania, I urged him to re-consider and also requested if he will share the basis of his decision. Hijabman was gracious enough to write a post explaining his viewpoint - something he was under no obligation to do and I respect and thank him.

What I say now is not in direct conversation with him. That is why I am posting it here instead of in his comments. HijabMan opines that the only issue that concerns and occupies Muslims is the Israel/Palestine conflict (I don't agree with that assumption but let's leave that aside). And that determines his voting decision. I am no expert on Muslims in America (and barely a Muslim on Friday) and I have also never voted in my entire life. So, take all this as an academic exercise, if you must.

Lets start with the single-issue vote. Who is a single issue voter? Usually someone who makes a moral decision to express her opinion regardless of other factors, interests or concerns. She wants to send a message to and to stand clear of the political greyscape. It is a right that every voter has. Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Gay Right, Civil Rights are all single-issue voting blocs in general. Now, my quibble with the single-issue voter is that she will fall victim to pandering by the politician. She also has no regard to the compromise and negotiation that is an integral part of any democratic exercise. Remember, democracy is not majoritarianism. Values and principles have to be balanced within the overall good for society. By insisting on the single issue, compromise is immediately eliminated. You are either for or against. And while the issue may "stand alone" in the mind of the voter, it most certainly does not "stand alone" in the political or cultural landscape of the country. A moral decision must also reconcile with the effects of that decision, especially if they are negative.

Now, lets look at the Muslim case. If the Muslim unity is pre-supposed on the Israel/Palestine issue than what is a moral choice for a vote? In the US-Israel case, both the Democrats and the Republicans share the same over-arching philosophy - Israel's security and placating the Jewish lobby. A moral vote for a Muslim, as Hijabman writes, is to deny both parties. I disagree.

First, in the 2004 contest, a vote for a non-existing third candidate is a non-existing vote. And the repercussions of that vote causing a Bush presidency cannot be explained away by a clear conscience. No matter what you think of Gore/Democrats, they would not have invaded Iraq after 9/11 under his/their administration. Just from Richard Clarke and Bob Woodworth's books, it is clear that Iraq was a mandate in January 2001. Hence, the "sameness" of Democrats/Republicans is utterly false.

Second, is that a moral decision rests on a moral action. Hijabman thinks that casting a vote for the third party is that action. But, if that is such an overwhelming issue, shouldn't the action be more than a ballot cast into oblivion every four years until infinity? Shouldn't one go and do what every one of the single-issue contingent does: create a PAC. Generate funds. Lobby. Find candidates. And, if one agrees that those are good actions that will introduce a modicum of balance into the US-Israeli foreign policy than the question becomes who to support? AIPAC works with both Republicans and Democrats. It does not give any money to anyone else. AMPAC should follow suit. Does a third party vote facilitate that? No.

Lastly, let's say that the single-issue Muslim voter buys all this and needs to decide who to vote for? Muslims for Bush and Muslims for Kerry can help you with that question:

from Muslims for Bush: We sincerely find it hard to believe why people would ever say that President Bush is against Palestine and its people? President Bush is the first President of the United States to ever officially recognize Palestine as a country. Such an action was not even performed by President Clinton, who became infamous for trying to broker peace between Palestine and Israel.
President Bush also convinced the United Nations to officially recognize Palestine, an action that no other United States President has done.
President Bush is pushing a peace plan that is truly long lasting and beneficial for both Palestine and Israel, which includes large amounts of USA financial aide in creating Palestine, as well as a Palestinian-controlled highway that would link the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Unlike the Clinton Peace Plan, Palestine would actually have control over the roads and infrastructure of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, instead of being under Israeli control. Peace for both Palestine and Israel would be a great victory, within the War On Terror, as many political figures, both posing as Jewish and Muslim, continually exploit the matter, in an effort to generate support for their political machines that are based upon hatred. Peace between Jews and Muslims is a vision that President Bush clearly sees and clearly supports ñ a vision that Muslims For Bush also supports.
In the meantime, President Bush has negotiated Prime Minister Sharon into pulling out of the Gaza Strip, an action that is now underway, despite opposition from many Israeli Cabinet members. The seeds of peace are being sewn by President Bush, as we speak!

from Muslims for Kerry: However, George W. Bush broke all the rules when it comes to advancing the cause of peace in Israel and Palestine. He was the first US President to break the longstanding policy of not accepting the legality of Israeli settlements in occupied territory - in effect, rewarding Israel for expropriating Palestinian land. He called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a "man of peace" even as he sent the Israeli army deep into Palestinian territory, wreaking havoc on innocent civilians in its search for terrorists. According to former Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill, President Bush made it clear from the beginning of his administration that the United States would not take an active role in the conflict. It is unclear whether this was due to theological beliefs or disdain for President Clinton and his hands-on approach. What is clear is that Bush has devoted few US resources towards solving the conflict during his term in office, mainly due to his preoccupation with Iraq.
Despite the similarities between Kerry and Bush on Israel & Palestine, there are important benefits in sending John Kerry and the Democrats into the White House. The Democratic Party can bring more balance into US policymaking positions - The Bush cabinet, along with key appointed positions under his control, have created the most dramatic alliance with the extreme-right in Israel in US history. The powerful ideologues of the Republican party, such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and evangelists Pat Robertson and Billy Graham, have taken blatantly anti-Palestinian positions that harm not only Americaís national interests, but Israelís as well.
Electing John Kerry will give us an opportunity for change in US policy, starting with the removal of Bush appointees who choose war and conflict as the first recourse to create change in the Middle East. With a Democratic administration, those voices in Congress who have been most fair towards the Palestinians (and most of them happen to be Democrat) will be emboldened.

Bush and Kerry are not morally equivalent choices. At all. And a Bush second term will be further disaster.

Polls, I don't trust, say that Muslims are going for Kerry. The umbrella organization (of CAIR, ICNA etc) American Muslim Taskforce has not officially endorsed Kerry but even a cursory look on their website shows the way wind is blowing.

In the end, I want to stress that though I am new to Hijabman's blog, I have found him to be an extremely intelligent and sensitive person. I have utter respect for his position and I wrote this simply to emphasize that I have never agreed with the moral relativism clause in third party voting. Didn't believe it in 2000 and do not believe it in 2004.


HijabMan | October 12, 2004

I'd just like to clarify. The Israel Palestine issue is the only thing that unites American Muslim voters... not the sole issue of importance to them

HijabMan | October 12, 2004

American Muslims, rather forget the voters.

Andrew Reeves | October 20, 2004

Hmm... I don't really see, though, how the Iraq Unpleasantness is really a Muslim Issue. After all, Hussein was mostly secular, there are Shi'ites both for and against America over there, and even the insurgency was led mostly by secular Ba'athists until sometime last summer.

Granted, the insurgency seems to have since been taken over by mad Salafis, but that's only been in the last few months.

In a way, the upper middle class white Marxists in dreadlocks at the anti-war rallies are probably more right about the nature of the whole thing than the Muslims at the same rallies.