Date :Monday, November 3rd, 2014 | Time : 16:13 |ID: 15289 | Print

Midterm Elections… How Muslims Vote?

SHAFAQNA- Despite the United States’ ongoing issues with Muslim-majority countries like Syria and the conflict with the so-called Islamic State, American Muslim voters see domestic issues, like health care and the economy, as their top priorities heading into the Nov. 4 mid-term elections.

However, one Muslim leader said, no matter what issues concern Muslims, those who name Islam as their religion should only vote for those candidates who have never voted to harm Muslims in any way.

“If you know for a fact that you’re going to contribute to the furthering of suffering then you can’t cast that vote,” Will Coley, national director of Muslims for Liberty, told

During the 2014 mid-term election, all 435 seats in the US Senate will be contested along with 38 state and territorial governorships. There will also be races in 46 state legislatures (excluding Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia), in addition to numerous state and local races.

According to a recent poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslim voters said their top concerns in the Nov. 4 mid-term elections are the economy (24%), health care (17%) and Islamophobia (15%).

Coley’s group, Muslims for Liberty, is a 2,500-member strong organization established in 2010 as a reaction to the anti-Muslim voices in the Tea Party, an ultra-conservative movement of the Republican party.

He said Muslims often are blind to many politicians’ rhetoric, particularly if those politicians are members of the Democratic Party and are perceived as friendly to Muslims.

“Muslims want to fit in and be a part of something,” he said.

“They don’t care about the issues or actions of candidates so long as they have the right letter by their names. Muslims need to start voting (by) principals rather than (by) party.”

In fact, a recent poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in the United States – showed that of the 69 percent of registered Muslims voters who plan to vote on Nov. 4,  51 percent will cast their ballots in favor of Democrats..

Coley said Muslims need to look “outside of the box” and identify candidates who have openly fought against anti-Shari`ah laws and who have not voted for waging war against Muslims overseas.

“We have people (politicians) out there fighting for us, and Muslims don’t even know about them,” he said. “Start looking for other options and vote for someone who is a decent human being.”

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Dustin Barto, editor of Carolina Muslims magazine, agreed.

Despite Coley’s frustration, his message may be well received as, according to the CAIR poll, increasing Islamophoia in America ranked as the third most important issue amongst Muslim voters, behind the economy and health care.

“Across the nation American Muslims have emerged as a significant voting block able to change the outcome of hard fought and tight races,” said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw.

“It’s the Muslim community’s job to vote for the candidates who, regardless of political party, best reflect their views.”

Dustin Barto, editor of Carolina Muslims magazine, agreed.

“I think the most important issue that Muslims need to look at are candidates who will actually represent them,” he said, stressing Muslims need to identify politicians who consistently defend Muslims’ civil rights.

To do that, Muslims must listen closely to candidates’ rhetoric, particularly when it comes to ISIL because, despite many Muslim leaders publicly rebuking the group and explicitly stating it does not represent Islam or Muslims, many non-Muslim Americans perceive a threat from ISIL and project their feelings onto their Muslim neighbors in the United States.

These fears are only exacerbated by what people are hearing from their political leaders.

Chris Coons, the Democratic Senate incumbent in Delaware, recently said Congress should vote to authorize military force against ISIL.

His Republican challenger Kevin Wade called the extremist group “the most brutal movement to emerge in the world since the days of the Nazis.”

In light of this kind of talk and despite it, Muslims in America still have a chance to influence politics no matter who they vote for, and Muslims leaders say politicians in Washington should be paying attention.

Though both Coley and Barto lean Libertarian, CAIR’s McCaw said it’s the Republican Party that should be paying more attention to Muslims’ voting preferences.

In the recent CAIR poll, only 15 percent of Muslims who plan to head to the polls on Nov. 4 said they will be voting for Republicans.

“American Muslims continue to play a key role in our nation’s elections with 69 percent of registered Muslim voters planning to turn out in the mid-term election compared to the 37 percent of all voters who went to the polls in 2010,” McCaw said.

“The more than half of Muslim voters who express support for Democratic candidates reflect that party’s greater openness to the Muslim community and its issues.”

To ensure Muslims turn out on Tuesday, Nov. 4, CAIR has organized a get-out-the-vote campaign the weekend prior. The organization targeted 145,000 households in states with large Muslim populations.

The group will also conduct exit polls on Wednesday, Nov. 5 to determine how many Muslims voted and for whom they cast their ballots.

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