Does the American Muslim vote count in 2012?

Published: February 5, 2012

Is 0.6% of a demographic going to make it or break it for President Obama? PHOTO: REUTERS

During President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he was hopeful and positive; his speech, like most of his speeches, ignited a fire amongst those watching. One felt a sense of pride and hope as he spoke about the state of the country and his future plans. And while he addressed all areas he could, he may have missed out on a group.

President Obama mentioned the Hispanic/Latino population in the country and the African American population; he also extended strengthened support to the United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East, Israel.

And while I understand that the president cannot possibly mention all issues in just an hour, (more like an hour and four minutes) he did not mention anything about the Muslim vote in America.

Now, I know the Muslim vote only counts for a small percentage of votes, but my question is this: is the Muslim American vote of any importance in the 2012 election year?

It’s no surprise that a decade after 9/11, Muslims in America face more or less the same hate crimes and bigoted comments from the average American. There have been many incidents that even encourage bigotry and discrimination towards Muslims in America, the latest being the NYPD police commissioner showing over 100 times a video called the “Third Jihad” to the anti-terror force. Is that not going to create any animosity towards Muslim Americans?

When Lowe’s pulled its advertising from the TLC show All American Muslim, there was a huge uproar from the Muslim community. Even politicians got involved, such as Chris Murphy, a Democratic representative from Connecticut. He too pointed out the stark bigotry Muslim Americans face in the United States and how it is unnecessary and un-American.

Other than that, Newt Gingrich has repeatedly and vehemently claimed that the biggest threat to the national security of the United States is the rise of radical Islam. In one way I agree with him; radical Islam can hurt any country, just like any radical interpretation of any religion or ideology.

Such as the radical interpretation Newt takes on why African American’s like living on food stamps. He thinks they haven’t been “taught” how to get a job, and if elected, he will take time out of his busy schedule of building a base on the moon, teaching them how to get a job.

Now, there are a little less than two million Muslims in the United States today. Muslims are about 0.6% of the American population according to the CIA World Factbook. In 2010, there were over two million Muslims in the country, amounting to 0.8% of the population, but that number has dropped.

So, is 0.6% of a demographic going to make it or break it for President Obama? Or will we be under the radar when it comes to getting the American public’s votes?

I know election time can be tricky. You need to reach out to the larger groups in the mix to get people to vote for you. Muslim American’s may not be as large a group as any other, but they are a group that should be encouraged.

Like any other minority in this country, 1.6 million people feel that they count and that their needs are as important as their fellow citizens’. It is hard to ignore a group of 1.6 million but it does happen more often than not. And it’s not only the Muslims who suffer. Look at how the gay community has had to struggle in this country – which is a shock, because the United States gives everybody a fair playing field.

America, through its constitution and policies, has allowed for people to come together and to voice their opinions, religions, and expressions regardless of whatever they may be. Truthfully, there are only a few countries that provide such an open platform. Therefore, minority groups have the opportunity to take advantage of the accessibility of the system they have in this country, and many already have .

It’s actually an amazing system. But through racism, discrimination, bigotry, xenophobia and misunderstanding, people can feel quite cornered and discriminated against. And so, through political encouragement, community understanding and societal changes, we as a people, including citizen and politicians, can change that.

Through mutual respect, the Muslim American vote can actually make a difference and can be counted as a vote that matters – all 0.6% of it.

This blog was originally published here.  Read more by Manal here.





Manal Shakir

A freelance journalist in Chicago, IL who tweets @ManalShakir1

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Zaidu Chhaliya

    Radio Pakistan Washington… coming soon…wait and watch .. in 5 years we will broadcast it from moon…Recommend

  • Afaaq

    The question arises, do Muslim votes count in Muslim countries?

    Washington is in America, Its not on the moon. Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Obama has done more for the assimilation of Muslims in the American society, and to protect them from discrimination than perhaps any other President.

    He broadcasts videos specially for Muslims in the months of Ramadan. He’s consistently stressed in his speeches that the war they’re fighting is not against Muslims, but a certain Islamist fringe. In fact, his efforts have brought his own faith into question among the American public, many of whom believe he’s Muslim himself.

    But because he failed to mention Muslims in the State of the Union address, we come to the conclusion that he doesn’t care about Muslims. I wonder if we can ever get over this incessant need to feel sorry for ourselves through constant self-victimization.Recommend

  • AF

    The President or the Govt institutions can’t make you feel comfortable in your own skin living in the US society. It is up to you and your fellow Muslims to assimilate and show your positive contributions to society there. Remember, the US was (still is) a Christian majority society. They did not invite the Muslims to come join them, it has been the Muslims who have slowly trickled into US. IT is for the Muslims to integrate and assimilate. They can’t expect to remake US as it was back home for them so that feel comfortable; Get the economic advantages of US, but the cultural comforts of back home. As long as you see yourself through a special prism, you will be on the outside.Recommend

  • John B

    If American Muslims start voting based on their religious notion, then such votes won’t have any impact. If they start voting on the issues, then they can make a a headway. Recommend

  • Asad

    For the gentleman above, I think the concept of this blog was to create a sense of awareness of how this upcoming election is not only important for the entire U.S population, but also the Muslim population there. Nowhere in this blog does it say that Obama didn’t do anything to facilitate the assimilation of Muslims into American society, or to protect them. So it’s important for us to understand what message this journalist is trying to get across, rather than shoot in the dark.

    Yes, the broadcasting of videos in Ramadan is great because it makes American Muslims feel like a part of American society. Just like the Obama administration put in the effort to support American Muslims in that instance, it could also add in a line or two in the President’s speech about how important the vote and confidence of Americans Muslims is.

    It would only further assimilate them into society and not only make them feel like a part of the upcoming elections, but also show the world that they play a role, regardless of how small it may be.

    Assurance is necessary so that American Muslims don’t feel left out because let’s face it, we haven’t been in the best of positions for the past few years. With the onslaught of terrorism and extremism accusations, the last thing we need is to feel cornered or worse, unappreciated. The truth is that the majority of American Muslims play a vital role to contribute to the U.S economy, so of course, why should Obama think that “All Muslims” are bad?

    I don’t think that “many” Americans think that Obama is Muslim. According to a Time magazine poll last year, only 24% of Americans thought that Obama is Muslim. The majority of these people were not “well-read,” for obvious reasons. That leaves the remaining 76% that don’t think Obama is Muslim. These should actually be considered as “many” rather than the 24%.

    So yeah, Obama failed to mention Muslims in the State of the Union Address, which certainly doesn’t limit the potential or outlook of American Muslims. But this blog has brought to attention the dire importance and need for our involvement as Muslims in the upcoming Presidential elections. If we don’t voice our opinions, who will?

    So this certainly shouldn’t be considered as a “feel sorry” blog or one that promotes self-victimization. Rather, it is a blog to make American Muslims realize that they should play a proactive role in making their voices heard and they should be aware of the fact that Obama didn’t bring them up in his speech. This doesn’t mean that they’re crybabies, brats, or ungrateful, rather it shows that they’re actively thinking of what part they will play in the future of this country. Recommend

  • Amir

    In sheer numbers the Muslim vote really does not count. It is far too little and far too diluted on a national scale. If at all the money contributions to parties may count.

    Again, it is for the Muslim segment to earn their due position of respect in the American society. Obama is not going to do it, nor is he capable of doing it. American Muslims have to work hard to overcome the negative connotations associated with Islam ( honor killings, terrorism, barbarism, suicide bombers etc …). The negative picture of Islam is just too deep. Unfortunately, the need of the hour is that they have to show they are Americans first and Muslims second.. They have to drop the negative cultural baggage from their original mother lands.

    An American, who was born a Non-Muslim, but has embraced Islam in adult life, is mostly without this ‘negative cultural baggage’ and easily accepts the good or positive aspects of the religion. He is already assimilated with the American societal ways, so he does not hate or object to the common cultural practices in American society – women working in offices, women not covering up their faces, Hollywood entertainment , music, mixing of the sexes in schools and colleges and even prayer rooms, dating etc. IT is easy for him to do everything in moderation. and this type of person is acceptable to the American society because he is not a threat nor is he calling for a change in the American society. He is about live and let live. That is why Americans accept a myriad of crazy cults. Those cults do not pose as a threat to their way of life.

    But Islam mixed together with the negative aspects of cultural practices from the middle-east and Pakistan and the news filled with terrorism accounts , does stand out as a threat and hence is unwelcome – the American society is scared of it. Recommend

  • Umair Waheed Sheikh, Khayban e Hafiz,Karachi

    Why are you showing off that you are a US citizen. So what my Uncle and Aunt are too!Recommend

  • Asdf

    I have noticed that muslim identification is strong as to exclude any other identity of a person. (and this is true anywhere in the world and also in the most developed society in the world). I think it’s partially due to self perpetuation (you and others continue to see you as muslim first and foremost) and then it serves the selfish interests of the islamic clerics and community leaders. Recommend

  • V

    I am tired of hearing “muslim this” and “muslim that”. How many of you muslims actually care and fight for the non-muslims in muslim countries? Stop being cry babies man! America and Americans have given muslims (or any religion for that matter) a lot more than what muslim countries have given non-muslims. If you wanna argue this point, proofs please!Recommend

  • Parvez

    The Muslim in America is viewed and judged more by the doing and actions of fellow Muslims outside of America and this is unfair, but then it is the American Muslim who has to make the effort to assimilate with the culture and society of the land they have chosen to live in and not the other way around.
    I am certain that when an effort is made from their side, America will reciprocate and then their vote will count in the true sense.Recommend

  • G. Din

    America is not India where an obscurantist minority can make the mighty Central government to bow to its diktat. Try telling American government, or even Obama, to expel Salman Rushdie and see how far you go!Recommend

  • Singh from USA

    Do you guys care about any non Muslim in your country?
    Why Muslim want special treatment in non Muslim country?
    You want Islam then stay in your country.
    Keep your vote in Pakistan.Recommend

  • kataria

    Ron Paul all the way!Recommend

  • Londoner

    American muslims should vote for Ron Paul. He is the only sane voice in American politics. The rest are just blood thirsty war mongers who take pleasure in killing and pillaging Muslims.Recommend

  • Moz

    Don’t mistake America as a secular country like Europe or any other for that matter. It is a irrefutable fact and to my surprise, America was actually founded on Judeo-Christian principles. And America fought its first naval war with Muslim berbers in North Africa.Recommend

  • softy

    keep producing like rabbits and migrating in hordes. may be in next 2-3 election cycles the muslim population will be sizeable enough to make a difference.

    but wait, does’nt that also mean time to bring Khalifa in a muslim majority country. no need for any election votes then.

  • Thevoiceofreason

    @Moz, In actuality, the founding fathers were mostly deists while the general public became more Christian due to the Great Awakening. And as for the wars with the Berbers, the peace treaty ( a legal document) clearly states that America is not founded as a Christian nation, and is not at war, nor will it ever be at war, with Islam. Since a majority of Americans come from European background, it is natural that a majority of American will be Christian. So yea, try to be a little more educated there buddy. As for the Judeo-Christian principles, yes American law respects certain Judeo-Christian ethics, but only as far as what is seen as morally correct in a broader, secular view. So not it’s not really an “irrefutable fact.”Recommend

  • MarkH

    What you completely overlook is no religion being referenced. That’s what’s so annoying about Muslims sometimes. They turn everything into something religion based and usually they’re knocking Christians out of the way to get on the cross instead.Recommend

  • Stewie Griffin

    I would rather vote for Ron Paul than Obama.Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Being Muslim isn’t a race. An African American can be a Muslim too, so can a Hispanic American or a Latino.

    It’s a religion, and considering that no religions were mentioned in the speech, such self-pity is very much inappropriate. Maybe in his next speech, Obama can mention Muslims, Christians, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Taoists, Rastafarians, Pastafarians, Scientologists, as well as agnostics, atheists, neo-atheists…so that nobody feels left out. Recommend

  • http://India VASAN

    Inspite of migrating from a host of countries which have Hindus, like Srilanka, Malaysia, India and Nepal, Hindus do not form a vote bank anywhere, Infact Indians form a vote bank. Isnt it a point that our Pak brothers to follow.Recommend

  • Cynical

    @Loneliberal PK

    You are awesome.Recommend

  • Multan

    Ron Paul, The Only Man in the Darkness of US politics!!!!Recommend

  • Katarina

    Religion is a personal issue and not related to politics. Why should Obama address any religious groups? Recommend

  • Mitch Baylord

    As per wikipedia,there were 2.6m Muslims in United States in 2010.The number dropped to 1.8m.What happened to 0.8m in one year?Can someone explain?Recommend

  • John B

    The country was founded by Christian pilgrims who fled Europe from persecution and of course by others who followed for various economic reasons. Quakers philosophy was the founding principle when it became independent from British. As every country in this world, it also has a religious flavor and that happens to be Judeo-Christian philosophy. But that is not the state philosophy and it is very ardently followed and defended. If that is a news to you, then you should read more.

    The naval warfare in N. Africa was fought with pirates ( yes, there were Muslim pirates then, as they are today in Somalia) and eventually treaty of Tripoli was signed so that American merchant ships payed tribute to the pirate leader for safe passage.

    All these kind of piracy, tribute paying by traders for safe passage should be familiar with all who know the history of middle east.

    Stop propagating false history and start reading. Recommend

  • ahmed_azhar

    The naval warfare in N. Africa was fought with pirates ( yes, there were Muslim pirates then, as they are today in Somalia) and eventually treaty of Tripoli was signed so that American merchant ships payed tribute to the pirate leader for safe passage.

    All these kind of piracy, tribute paying by traders for safe passage should be familiar with all who know the history of middle east.

    Stop propagating false history and start reading.Recommend

  • Katarina

    @Mitch Baylord:
    In US the peoples religion are not registered or covered in the Census. Therefor the numbers are only estimates and may vary depending on who has done the study. Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    To be heard, any group has to have a block of votes. If Muslims vote on the basis of common issues then their vote will count.Recommend

  • Cynical

    Apparently American christians,jews,sikhs,jains,buddhists,hindus,parsis etc.and atheists are not overly concerned, if their votes count for or not.Recommend

  • Asif

    @John B:
    Your comment reminded me of Ron Paul. Focus on the issues. See how easy it is to divide people emotionally? Funny thing is, they will end up voting against their very interests just to be a part of a group!Recommend

  • SoundofFury

    Interesting that Muslim Americans supported the Republicans in the 1990s (nearly 80% voted for Bush). Switched to the Democrats after 9-11, and now support a radical libertarian (Paul) who wants to legalize drugs and prostitution. Of course I seriously doubt most Muslim Americans would support Paul on most of his positions, but the near tribal reaction and narrow scope of interests basically shows just how unintegrated this community is. Religion does not completely define a person, but for many Muslim Americans that is the only identity that matters.Recommend

  • Saad Raees

    Most Muslims would actually support any candidate who would deal with the issues properly, like any other other group, but why would any Muslim (or anyone from any group for that matter) vote for someone who bashes their affiliation!

    The Republican Party and most of its candidates have been bashing Muslims publicly, many of them doubt most Muslim Americans are at all patriotic to America and they generalize the entire Muslim American population as radicals!

    Tea Party conducts seminars on regular basis calling for Islam to be wiped out from America since “it poses danger to America’s national security”

    The NYPD shows the officers a documentary which shows that Muslims in America are on a ‘secret mission’ to make America a Muslim state and no I dont oppose their sureveillance on Muslims, because its in a broader national interest!

    The Republican Council-woman Deborah Pauly of Villa Park, CA addresses to a rally, along with other Republican congressmen outside a Muslim fundraising convention and says that whatever they are doing inside is ‘evil’ while the attendees of the rally bully little children attending the convention!

    Yes I understand most Americans were against the mosque at ground zero and i respect that feeling, although it was to be a worship place for Muslim, Christians and Jews and was protrayed as a place to “recruit terrorists” and a symbol of “Islamic conquest of America” by oppurtunist Republicans (before that nobody even cared if a mosque was to be built there) but why were we seeing so many Republicans opposing so many other sites where mosques were being built?

    Newt Gingrich says that he would never appoint a Muslim in his cabinet!
    Herman Cain says he believes most American Muslims are radicals!
    So many of the Republican politicians keep calling Islam as a poltical ideology rather than a religion!

    You know what? We really do not want to be “unintegrated” as you say, but how could you expect us to vote for people who are so much against us?
    And we are not the only group that votes on such issues, majority of African-Americans, Latinos and gays also vote based on their affiliation!

    I dont mind voting for a Repulican at all, but they dont even like me being in America!

    But I agree with people that most of the blame lies mostly on the Muslims because we need to integrate more! Politicians are just oppurtunists who will do anything that will get them votes!
    And make no mistake that I’m as a patriotic American as any non-Muslim American!
    God bless America!Recommend