The American Muslim Task Force – a self appointed coalition of some American Muslim Organizations has decided to insult both the Presidential candidates as a strategy to improve the civil rights environment in the US. On October 20th, in a strangely worded statement, this group of Muslim leaders, on behalf of the American Muslim Community, issued a “qualified endorsement” of Senator John Kerry while actually asserting that it sees no qualitative distinction between his positions and those of the incumbent.
A close reading of the statement reveals the problematic nature of American Muslim leadership. They seem to have no idea of how to advance and protect the interests of the constituency that they claim to represent. The present statement merely alienates American Muslims from both candidates.
First it provides a criticism of the Bush administration as an “oppressive” regime and ensures that there will be very little cooperation between these very same organizations and the Bush administration if it returns to the White House in November 2004. If I was George W. Bush, I would make a note to myself to send out a memo to the Department of Homeland Security to pay “special attention” to the members of the American Muslim Task Force. What will they do, call me oppressive?
Organizations which seek to develop closer relations with the institutions of power in order to have some say in policy making cannot afford to alienate themselves from any party. The political marginalization of the American Muslim community after 9/11 has been devastating at the national level, though it has actually improved at the local level. One critical example of this marginalization is the complete absence of American Muslim input in the 9/11 commission’s investigations and their subsequent report; a report, which will shape the policies of the government regardless of which candidate wins in November.
The endorsement of John Kerry is nothing but insulting. This is how it reads in simple English: “We find nothing of merit in your positions, we are also piqued that you did not pamper and pursue us the “American Muslim leaders” [it is irrelevant that your campaign has reached out to a lot of other Muslim individuals and local organizations], nevertheless we will vote for you but only to send a message to President Bush. We hope you will be grateful to us”.
If I were John Kerry, I would make a note to emphasize to these pompous ideologues the fact that I will get a huge majority of the Muslim vote regardless of what the members of the task force say or do. If I win, I would fight hard against my own self to resist sending a memo to the Department of Homeland Security, but will certainly ensure that these organizations have little or no access to policy making. I would seek new and more humble voices from the community to include in policy deliberations as in the campaign.
There are many Muslims who are involved at local and national levels in the Kerry campaign.
The American Muslim Task Force seems to be clearly pandering to a very small, extremely conservative and even anti-American segment of the American Muslim community. It is also possible that the large presence of organizations that have or had links to political Islamic movements in the Arab and Muslim World may have contributed to the issuing of a statement that serves neither American nor American Muslim interests.
The statement also exposes how completely out of tune the AMT members are with regards to the Muslim community itself. Surveys conducted by the Muslim Observer (out of California) and the Muslims in the American Public Sphere/Zogby poll released on October 19th, clearly shows a significant shift in American Muslim politics.
The American Muslim preference for John Kerry is not a negative vote, but a positive vote for Kerry and for the Democratic Party. American Muslims as a community have moved to the left as a result of the Patriot Act and the rise of Islamophoebia in America, all of which they attribute to the influence of extreme right wing politics on the Bush administration in particular and the Republican party in general.
The Muslim preference for John Kerry [and their fascination with for Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader] is indicative of the adaptation of a beleaguered community to its new realities and also a commentary on its growing understanding of American society and its politics.
Just as the community is moving away from George W. Bush and the Republican Party, it will soon move away from self appointed leaders who are out of touch with their constituency.