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Obama Divides Muslim Voters

Published: 13/06/2012 04:18:18 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Unlike the last round of election in which they overwhelmingly voted for the Democrat president, US Muslim voters, alienated by policies crippling their civil rights, are divided over casting ballot for Barack Obama i (more)

CAIRO - Unlike the last round of election in which they overwhelmingly voted for the Democrat president, US Muslim voters, alienated by policies crippling their civil rights, are divided over casting ballot for Barack Obama in this year's ballot.

"This year there are many issues that are of great concern, looking at the last four years of President Obama, especially concerning civil rights," Naeem Baig, chairman of the American Muslim Taskforce, a coalition representing 13 of the country's largest Muslim organizations, told The Huffington Post.

"A good number of people are asking, why should we support the president when he did not deliver on many of the promises he made?"

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Driven by promises of closing Guantanamo Bay and ending anti-Muslim policies endorsed by the George W. Bush administration, Muslims overwhelmingly voted for Obama in the 2008 election.

But four years in the Oval Office, many of Obama's promises have been left unmet.

The Guantanamo Bay, in which hundreds of detainees are being held without trials, remains open.

The Obama administration has also continued policies seen targeting the Muslim community such as police surveillance on the minority and their worship places.

Obama has also adopted some controversial policies such as the secret “kill list” of terror suspects, which fuelled fears among many Americans.

Most of these policies have prompted Muslim voters to reconsider whether to vote for Obama, who is facing a serious challenge from Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

For instance, the AMT, which endorsed Obama in 2008, has declined to make an endorsement yet.

"There's a very strong voice asking about a possible third-party candidate," Baig said.

Ahmad Ishaq, a founder of the Arlington Young Democrats Muslim Caucus in Virginia, says many Muslim voters are still undecided on voting for Obama.

"In terms of pushback, we've talked to a lot of people who said they wouldn't necessarily vote for Mitt Romney, but when it comes to pledging their support for Obama they are still undecided," he said.

Though there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to nearly six to eight million Muslims.

Although the Muslim population in the US may be small, the voting power of this group could become significant in a close election as a significant number of US Muslims live in key swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

No Choice

But some believe that Muslim voters have no other option but to vote for Obama in the November ballot.

"The Muslim community doesn't have a real choice in this election, because Romney is awful and completely stands in opposition to the interests of the Muslim American community," Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim congressman, said.

"If there's anything about Obama you don't like, triple it when it comes to Romney."

Republican candidates have alienated many American Muslims during campaigns to win their party nomination for the November election.

Most candidates have launched attacks on Muslims and Islamic Shari`ah to win right-wing votes.

Ellison believes that Muslims can reach tangible results with Obama rather than Romney on issues of their concern.

"We have every right as Americans to get answers to these questions," he said.

"We can raise a range of things and we will, of course. But let's raise these issues with an administration we have some chance of persuading -- not an administration who just doesn't want to hear it."

Some supporters of Obama argue that the Democrat president has made several achievements, including bringing an end to the Iraq war.

Supporters also cite Obama's support for Muslim plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site.

They also cite dialogue between the Obama administration and Muslim community leaders on their problems.

Top White House aides have had policy discussions with Muslim and Arab-American advocates on topics such as foreign policy, the economy, immigration and national security.

"I think the Muslim American community is willing to give the president another chance," Haris Tarin, director of the Washington office for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a public service agency, said.

"They understand that it's been a very polarizing four years."

But Baig, the American Muslim Taskforce chairman, disagrees, saying Muslim voters are also open to cast ballot for the Republican candidate.

"He took on a much lighter tone in the debates and made it clear that people of all faiths are welcome in this country," he said."Coming from a religious minority himself, Romney could open up and meet with Muslims to try and undo some of his party's damage in isolating, even shunning, the community."

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