Jewish Journal


February 22, 2008

Scholar: Muslims will vote Obama


Politicians usually appreciate capturing voting blocs. But I have to wonder if predications like this—that Barack Obama is the overwhelming favorite for Muslims—will hurt the candidate more than it will help.

Many American Muslims are genuinely invested in finding a candidate who actually sees the United States as responsible member of a global community, and not just a bully.

And that’s why the overwhelming support of the Muslim community now has shifted to the Democratic side, and specifically to Sen. Barack Obama.

Sen. Hillary Clinton generates little interest among Muslim-Americans. She favors an “undivided” (i.e., all Jewish) Jerusalem, which would signal even further suffering and catastrophe—even ethnic cleansing—for Palestinians who for more than a thousand years have called Jerusalem home.

And Clinton has signed on to a bill that makes war with Iran more likely, as it specifies that Iran is waging a “proxy war” against the United States in Iraq. It is this kind of language that got us ensnared in Iraq in the first place.

Obama, on the other hand, condemned Clinton’s vote on Iran and stressed diplomacy. Obama’s cosmopolitanism—raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, son of a white Midwestern mother and a Kenyan father—also resonates with many Muslims who want their president to be a global citizen, for a change.

When he began his political career, Obama courageously supported the idea that the United States should be a real honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians. Over time, however, he has distanced himself from the Palestinian side.

Yet many American Muslims remain hopeful that a President Obama would bring his vision of peace and justice back to all the areas of U.S. foreign policy, including the bleeding wound that is Palestine/Israel.

Pundits, take note: Overwhelmingly, American Muslims will be casting their votes for Obama.

George Bush owned the Muslim vote in 2000 because of campaign promises that came up exceedingly empty after 9/11, and in 2004 93 percent voted for John Kerry. Observers have been predicting American Muslims would vote strongly Democratic in November. And it’s little surprise that Obama, whose father was Muslim and whose middle name is Hussein, would be the fan favorite.

The problem for the Illinois senator is that one of the efforts to torpedo his campaign has been a handful of Internet rumors that he is a Jew-hating undercover Muslim. Despite assertions to the contrary, and the defense of many prominent Jews and despite the fact that the right Muslim could be a good president, the fear seems to linger with many people I talk to, even though who should know much better.

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