As US Muslim voters head to the polls in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, the question of civil-liberties will be on the mind of many. There is a general sense in the US Muslim community that the government is abusing the rights of Muslim citizens and unfairly targeting the community.
President Barack Obama has a four-year track-record on Muslim issues for voters to analyze. With Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Muslim voters have to rely on his statements and policy positions on Muslim and civil-rights issues. Reaching out to Muslim voters, I found different opinions on the candidates.
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“Are there really Muslims still supporting President Obama? I just can’t believe it. Are these the ‘house’ Muslims?” Miami-based Muslim lawyer Abdul-Jabar Muhammad said in an interview.
“This is a Police State”
“It is hard to imagine any president being worse than Obama on the issue of civil-liberties.”
“On the issue of civil-liberties the Obama record is atrocious. This administration put through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which will allow for people to be pre-emptively arrested. That is a police-state. Whistleblowers have been persecuted. To make matters worse these will be uncontested arrests. A disgrace is what this is. Barack Obama as president, who is a constitutional lawyer himself to make matters worse, has been absolutely disgraceful on these matters and beyond problematic,” Muhammad emphatically stated.
When asked whether his opposition to Obama’s civil-rights record would lead to his support of GOP candidate Romney Abdul-Jabar Muhammad declined.
“It is hard to imagine any president being worse than Obama on the issue of civil-liberties. So, in that area I don’t think it will matter if Romney or Obama is president. The terrible legal precedents of the Obama Administration will be carried on by Romney. What I would expect from Romney though is the return to the misguided policies of former President George W. Bush and that’s all he has to offer.” Muhammad said.
It was also noted by Abdul-Jabar Muhammad that Muslims in America often take an international view of civil-rights and human-rights and think about how America is treating Muslims in other countries.
“Obama is a president who has a personal hit-list. As president he has ordered the executions of American citizens without trial. This is draconian. For some Muslim and African-American voters though they don’t care. Obama and his wife Michelle are just cool and they don’t mind if he is killing people in drone strikes as long as his wife can still do the Dougie ( referring to a popular hip-hop dance),” Muhammad said pointing to those who have been killed in the Predator drone strikes ordered by President Obama in a number of Muslim countries. The killing of sixteen year old Abdul-Rahman al-Awlaki by such a strike was not only controversial in the Muslim community, but blasted by a number of American journalists including Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald.
Muslims for Obama?
However, the discontent with Obama in the Muslim community is far from universal and he still possesses a great deal of support with US Muslim voters. In a telephone interview with Aziz Poonawalla from his home in Wisconsin, the popular Muslim blogger of Beliefnet and Huffington Post outlined to me why he strongly supports President Obama.
“Overall you have to be pragmatic and realize you are never going to get everything you want. Muslims will be targeted to some extent no matter who is president due to global circumstances. There is a huge gap between Romney and Obama on civil-liberties issues and no Muslim can tell me Romney would be better. Actions are based on intentions and Obama is not deliberately targeting Muslims for abuse and has made every effort to reach out to the US Muslim community and have good relations,” Poonawalla, who is also the co-editor of the Muslims for Obama website, said.
When asked about the growing number of Muslim voters who have stated they will not be voting for either candidate or supporting Congressman Ron Paul as a write-in candidate Poonawalla was dismissive.
“Throwing away your vote doesn’t do anything. If you remove yourself from the process you will not get any benefit from it. The NYPD spying scandal and many other issues Muslims are complaining about had nothing to do with Obama. Give him some time to do the right thing and he will. The choice is clear,” Poonawalla added.
Two Main Camps
“Throwing away your vote doesn’t do anything. If you remove yourself from the process you will not get any benefit from it.”
Not all agree, including popular Muslim rapper Lupe Fiasco. Fiasco, a Chicago-native, is known for his socially and politically conscious lyrics and for being an African-American Muslim artist whose music is a part of the mainstream culture. Fiasco had previously stated his displeasure with the Obama Administration for its continuing support of Israel and the culpability America has in reference to the suffering of the people of Gaza. In recent interviews however, Fiasco has expanded on his list of grievances with President Obama and stated he is not voting at all and declaring Obama “the biggest terrorist” during an interview with CBS television. Fiasco does find himself in the minority according to Arab-American pollster who notes an overwhelming Muslim support for Obama.
The two main camps of US Muslim voting are those who support President Obama and those who support neither candidate with some of those voters being previous Ron Paul supporters. Mitt Romney has not been able to garner any significant support amongst US Muslim voters due to his support for a wide-array of policies that are deeply unpopular in the Muslim community and his relationship with Islamophobic activists.
On the issue of civil-liberties, the Republican-brand has an increasingly bad name in the US Muslim community. Polls show that the controversial policies that target Muslims have widespread support amongst Republicans and almost all of the most bills targeting Muslims that have been introduced and passed targeting Muslims have been by Republicans.
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