10/25/2012 04:42 pm ET Updated Dec 25, 2012

Why the Florida Muslim American Vote Counts

It's become a tale as old as time -- the 2000 Presidential elections, Florida's 25 Electoral College votes, and 537 individual voters. The Sunshine State has proven itself to be a significant swing state that has a key role in deciding the course of this nation, and with elections less then two weeks away, the Muslim American vote could determine the outcome of the elections.

Without a doubt, it's going to be another close call as to which of the two presidential candidates will snag Florida's, now, 29 Electoral College votes. With neither major party candidate campaigning within the Muslim American community, it's tough to say which candidate Florida's estimated 124,000 registered Muslim American voters will lean towards.

The true question is whether the past 12 years have called the Muslim American community to own their civic duty and to mobilize their vote, or whether the communities' growing impatience with domestic and foreign policy will keep them away from the polls.

Unlike the 2000 Presidential Elections, the American Muslim vote is not being heavily courted by either candidate. During the 2000 Republican National Convention the RNC became the first in either national party's history to include a Muslim prayer. President George W. Bush was the first major party presidential candidate to visit an Islamic center and his campaign hosted a series of events between Muslim and Republican leaders.

Suhail Khan, a former senior political appointee during the George W. Bush administration, even boldly labeled President Bush as the country's first Muslim president.

Since the 2000 Presidential Campaign, the Muslim American community has largely received the cold shoulder from both major parties. President Obama's campaign website lists 20 subgroups that supporters can join as part of the campaign, not one of them being Muslim Americans. This year's Republican National Convention included significantly less Muslim delegates and, unlike the 2000 Republican National Convention, did not include a Muslim prayer service. Most importantly, 12 years ago, Islamophobia was not a thriving network in the United States.

Twelve years ago, the horrible attacks of 9/11 had not yet happened, our country was not at war with Iraq, and our troops were not on the ground in Afghanistan. Twelve years ago we did not have a drone presence in Pakistan and, 12 years ago, Americans would not have been able to identify Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda.

Since the 2000 elections, an anti-Muslim backlash has developed in the United States. "Islamophobia" has become a term used by our media and in academia. Muslim American communities have had to deal with government surveillance, the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and an increase in hate crimes. Our elected officials and media have echoed the harsh statements of misinformation experts and propelled the bigotry to an audience of millions of Americans.

For the past eight months, Emerge USA has been working to mobilize the Muslim American vote in Florida. We are now less than two weeks away from Election Day and there is no telling which major party candidate will get Florida's 29 Electoral College votes that they'll need to win the White House. Surely, the Florida Muslim vote can and should make a difference, especially in a key swing state such as Florida.

Before political leverage is created, and before campaigns can start taking the Muslim American vote seriously, Muslim Americans in Florida need to show up at the polls and vote. We may be a minority vote, but we are a minority vote in a tight race in a key state.

As Muslim Americans, we must take ownership of our identity in this country. We need to prove that our community has a voice that will be heard and that the hate and misinformation spread by a vocal minority is unacceptable and intolerable. There is too much at stake in the Sunshine State this election and a vote not cast is going to end up being a vote after all.