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Islamophobia and the Muslim-American Vote

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As Muslim-Americans continue to navigate an often-hostile political terrain in the United
States, a few recent victories have given cause for optimism. Three Congressional races
resulted in the defeat of some of the country's most vocal political Islamophobes.

Republican Congressmen Allen West of Florida and Joe Walsh of Illinois lost their
reelection bids
, and Republican congressional-hopeful Adam Hasner was defeated in
Florida.

Muslim-American leaders rejoiced at these defeats -- and how could they not? Allen
West, who condemned Islam as "being not a religion", but rather "a totalitarian
theocratic political ideology"; and Joe Walsh, who asserted that radical Islam had found its way into
Chicago's suburbs, perpetuated the demonization of the nearly three million Muslim-
Americans who have proven their patriotism and loyalty to this country.

While such victories for Muslim-Americans (and non-bigoted Americans everywhere!) are worth acknowledging, it is premature to celebrate the end of Islamophobia in the
political sphere.

Michele Bachmann, whose endless witch hunts against Muslims led her to target
Hillary Clinton's chief of staff Huma Abedin this past summer, will still be a member of the 113th Congress. So will Peter King, whose contentious (if not theatrical) House hearings on the "radicalization of the Muslim-American community" evoked McCarthy era
comparisons, and were denounced by a broad array of civil rights organizations. These
two Congress members and their like-minded allies leave many battles to be fought
against bigotry.

The picture isn't entirely grim for Muslim-Americans, whose response to such
discriminatory targeting has been increased political mobilization. An informal exit poll
conducted by The Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim
civil rights and advocacy organization in the country, found that 95.5% percent of
Muslim voters said they went to the polls on November 6th.

Basim Elkarra, the Executive Director of CAIR-Sacramento and Chair of the National
Muslim Democratic Council, witnessed an unprecedented level of engagement and
organization. He worked with the Muslim-American community in key swing states and,
for the first time, distributed endorsement guides to help them cast their votes. Elkarra
saw tremendous efforts on a strategic level to get the community to polls in states like
Illinois and Florida that he did not see in 2008.

So who earned Muslim-Americans' vote for President? The CAIR poll found that 85.7
percent
cast their ballots to re-elect President Obama, while only 4.4 percent voted for
Mitt Romney. Compare this overwhelmingly Democratic vote to the 2000 Presidential
election where 78 percent of American Muslims voted Republican.

Yet what some members of the community found even more surprising was the level
of enthusiasm and support for President Obama, who has disappointed them on many
counts. These disappointments include the President's expansion of the National Defense
Authorization Act, which codified indefinite military detention without charge or trial
into law for the first time in American history; the failure to close Guantanamo; and the
drastic increase in drone strikes and targeted killings.

Considering President Obama's unfulfilled promises in both domestic and foreign policy,
Abdullah Al-Arian, an Assistant Professor of History at Wayne State University, believes
that the support from the community is unwarranted and ultimately cast his ballot for the
candidate he deemed more worthy of his vote, Jill Stein.

I spoke to Abdullah Al-Arian and Basim Elkarra about Islamophobia and the Muslim vote, along with Haris Tarin, Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; and Lizzy Dann, a Muslim-American lawyer.