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Friday, November 7, 2008

Among Young Muslims, Mixed Emotions on Obama

From the New York Times - November 7, 2008

Annie Tritt for The New York Times

Muslim students at New York University gathered on Wednesday to discuss the presidential election, among them Momtaz Yaqubie, Meherunnisa Jobaida, Sule Akoglu and Wamiq Chowdhury.

Among Young Muslims, Mixed Emotions on Obama

Published: November 7, 2008

For many, the excitement over Barack Obama's candidacy and election was muted by a sense of being marginalized politically.

Full article from the New York Times

Video: Islam and the Election

In a forum at New York University, Muslim students consider how Islam was used by the McCain and Obama campaigns.

Iranians Hope Obama Lives Up to His Name

From Time Magazine

An unidentified Iranian man wears a badge supporting President-elect Barack Obama in Tehran
An unidentified Iranian man wears a badge supporting President-elect Barack Obama in Tehran
Hasan Sarbakhshian / AP

Full article from Time.

Survey Shows High American Muslim Voter Turnout; 89% Picked Obama


Poll: 89 Percent of Muslim Voters Picked Obama
Survey shows high American Muslim voter turnout

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/7/2008) - The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) today released the results of a poll indicating that almost 90 percent of American Muslim voters picked Barack Obama in Tuesday's election. That survey of more than 600 American Muslim voters also indicated that just two percent of respondents cast their ballots for Sen. John McCain.

SEE: American Muslims Overwhelmingly Voted Democratic (Newsweek)

Poll Findings:

  • Of those who voted, 89 percent cast their ballot for Barack Obama.
  • Just two percent of respondents said they voted for John McCain.
  • Most of the respondents (78 percent) reside in ten states: Illinois, New York, Virginia, Michigan, California, Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
  • Ninety-five percent of respondents said they voted in the presidential election, whether at the polls or by absentee ballot. This is the highest American Muslim voter turnout ever reported.
  • Of those who voted, almost 14 percent said they did so for the first time.
  • One-fourth of respondents said they volunteered for or donated money to a political campaign in this election.
  • American Muslim voters are increasingly identifying themselves with the Democratic Party. More than two-thirds said they consider themselves Democrats. Most of the rest, or 29 percent, still consider themselves independent. Only four percent said they are Republicans.
  • More than two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents said the economy was the most important issue that affected their voting decision. This was followed by 16 percent who said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the most important. (In January 2008, a sample of 1000 Muslim voters rated education and civil rights as the top issues.)

For complete poll results, click here.

At a news conference today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., representatives of AMT and partner organizations shared the results of the poll. Speaking at the news conference were AMT Chairman Dr. Agha Saeed, Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society-Freedom Foundation (MAS-FF), and Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

"We are pleased to see such a high turnout by American Muslim voters, particularly in states that helped determine the outcome of the election. This shows that the American Muslim community is fully engaged in civic life," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

SEE: Muslims Drawn to Obama (Chicago Tribune)
SEE ALSO: Michigan Legislature Getting 1st Female Muslim (AP)

The poll, conducted by Genesis Research Associates, was commissioned by AMT. Random digit dialing was used to conduct phone interviews with individuals drawn from a large American Muslim voter database. A total of 637 Muslim voters were interviewed November 5 and 6, 2008. The margin of error is 3.87 percent.

AMT is an umbrella organization that includes: American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society-Freedom Foundation (MAS-FF), Muslim Student Association-National (MSA-N), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), and United Muslims of America (UMA). AMT observer organizations include: Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Islamic Educational Center of Orange County (IEC).

- END -

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rashida Tlaib, First Muslim Elected to Michigan Legislature

Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, is photographed outside the Michigan Capitol Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008, in Lansing, Mich. Elected to the 12th District of the state House, Tlaib is the first Muslim woman ever to serve in the Michigan Legislature. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Michigan Legislature Getting 1st Female Muslim

From the Associated Press - November 6, 2008


DETROIT (AP) — Michigan is getting its first female Muslim legislator, thanks in large part to her Jewish boss, the incumbent.

Rashida Tlaib, a lawyer, community activist and daughter of Palestinian immigrants, easily won a House seat in Tuesday's general election after emerging from an eight-way Democratic primary with 44 percent of the vote in August.

Tlaib, 32, said she wouldn't have run but for the repeated urging of Democratic state Rep. Steve Tobocman, who is stepping down because of term limits. Once she decided to run, she threw herself into it, knocking on 8,000 doors and hitting each household twice.

Southeastern Michigan has about 300,000 people with roots in the Arab world, but few of them live in Tlaib's largely black and Hispanic district in southwest Detroit.

"We view her victory as a sign that Michigan Muslims are welcomed as a part of our state's multi-faith and multiethnic society," said Dawud Walid, Michigan director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

According to the American Muslim Alliance, only nine Muslims were serving in state legislatures nationwide before Tuesday's elections, and only one of them is a woman. There are two Muslim members of Congress — Democrats Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana.

The Michigan Legislature's first known Muslim member, James Karoub, served three terms in the state House in the 1960s.

Tobocman said he first met Tlaib about five years ago when she was working for the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, where she did advocacy work for immigrants.

"I was just really, really impressed," he said. When he later became majority floor leader and got another staff slot, he recruited Tlaib for the job. He said she brings a passion for social justice and the ability to work with people across the political aisle with very different outlooks.

"She's someone who just intuitively understood the process right off the bat," Tobocman said.

The election was only one of many firsts for Tlaib. The eldest of 14 children of a retired Ford Motor Co. worker and his wife, she was the first in her family to earn a high school diploma. She went on to finish college and law school while helping raise 13 siblings.

"My parents ... are amazing Americans," she said. "They never thought this would ever happen."

Smears Against Obama Energized Muslim Voters: Experts

From Reuters - November 6, 2008

By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - False rumors that Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim or had ties to Islamic extremism angered Muslim-Americans, who overwhelming supported him in Tuesday's presidential election, experts said on Thursday.

Unpublished polling data indicated that the Democratic President-elect got somewhere between 67 percent and 90 percent of the Muslim vote, probably nearer the higher end, Ahmed Younis of Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, said in a telephone briefing.

A "watershed" moment for U.S. Muslims occurred in mid-October, he said, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who endorsed Obama, addressed the Obama-is-a-Muslim rumors which had circulated for months, and condemned the idea that this would be a slur.

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" Powell asked on NBC's "Meet the Press." "The answer's no, that's not America ... Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion 'he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.'"

Younis said that for U.S. Muslims Powell's comment capped a decades-long search "to become part and parcel of the nation."

Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population of 305 million, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, though some believe that number is low.

Obama, whose father was Kenyan and whose mother was a white woman from Kansas, has the middle name Hussein, and lived for part of his childhood in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. He is a Christian.

Jen'nan Read, professor of sociology at Duke University, told the same briefing that not only did the whisper campaign about Obama being a closet Muslim fail, but that distribution in closely contested states of a video on Islamic extremism backfired.


More than 20 million copies of a film called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" were included as advertising supplements in newspapers, distributed by a private group unaffiliated with Republican John McCain's campaign. The film features suicide bombers, children being trained with guns, and a Christian church said to have been defiled by Muslims.

Read said the video was a subtle attempt to link Obama to Islamic extremists but many of the states where it was handed out "were strongholds of Muslim American voters" who were prompted to work for Obama.

"It may actually have brought out voters for Obama," she said.

But beyond that issue, she added, Muslim voters looked a lot like many other American voters. They moved away from the Republican party, which they had backed heavily in 2000 but less so in 2004 -- and voted their concerns for issues such as the economy and a desire for a change in leadership.

Mukit Hossain, executive director of the Muslim American Political Action Committee, said at the briefing that support for Obama among Muslims "changed dramatically" in the last three to four weeks of the campaign "when people started calling Obama a terrorist" in the crowds at Republican rallies.

He also said a concern for erosion of civil liberties since the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, has driven Muslims away from the Republican party in recent years.

Although hard numbers are difficult to find, Hossain said from 2 million to 3 million Muslims were probably registered to vote in this year's election.

World Leaders' Quotes on Obama Election Win

LONDON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama won an extraordinary two-year
struggle for the White House, beating Republican John McCain and
becoming the first black president in U.S. history.

Following are quotes from world leaders:


"Your victory is an inspiration for us. That which appeared impossible
has become possible."


"Europe which is celebrating (the victory of) Obama must know that
Europe be will be called on to be a producer of security and no longer
merely a consumer. I think Obama will rightly call on us to take our
responsibilities more seriously."


"In this case hope has won over prejudice -- this is good for the
United States and the world as a whole."


"The news we are receiving on the results of the American presidential
election shows that everyone has the right to hope for a freshening of
U.S. approaches to all the most complex issues, including foreign
policy and therefore relations with the Russian Federation as well."


"I think you will hear a lot of discussion and goals and slogans
during the election campaigns. When there is a reality check I think
any U.S. president has to look very hard at the facts on the ground."


"Israel expects the close strategic cooperation with the new
administration, president and Congress will continue along with the
continued strengthening of the special and unshakeable special
relationship between the two countries."


"We congratulate (Obama) on the confidence of the American people in
him and we hope that he will change the policy of the United States
toward the Middle East and toward the crimes which are happening in
Afghanistan and Somalia, in other words that he adopts a just policy
that restores to America its natural position of respect for humankind
and democracy."


"Believers are praying that God will enlighten him and help him in his
great responsibility, which is enormous because of the global
importance of the United States...We hope Obama can fulfil the
expectations and hopes that many have in him."


"Your election marks a new chapter in the remarkable history of the
United States. For long, the ideas of democracy, liberty and freedom
espoused by the United States has been a source of inspiration...I
hope that under your dynamic leadership, the United States will
continue to be a source of global peace and new ideas for humanity."


"Your extraordinary journey to the White House will inspire people not
only in your country but also around the world."


"We don't expect any change through our previous experience with the
Democrats ... When it comes to foreign policy there is no difference
between the Republicans and the Democrats."


"The necessity for cooperation between Europe and the United States is
bigger than ever. Only by close transatlantic cooperation can we face
the world's challenges."


"With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to
the values that have always defined America's identity, have expressed
with force their faith in progress and the future. At a time when we
must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous
hope in France, in Europe and beyond."


"I applaud the American people for their great decision and I hope
that this new administration in the United States of America, and the
fact of the massive show of concern for human beings and lack of
interest in race and color while electing the president, will go a
long way in bringing the same values to the rest of world sooner or


"Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energizing politics with
his progressive values and his vision for the future. I know Barack
Obama and we share many values. We both have determination to show
that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult
times facing the global economy."


"We the Kenyan people are immensely proud of your Kenyan roots. Your
victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the
world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya."


"We need to change the current crisis into a new opportunity. We need
a new deal for a new world. I sincerely hope that with the leadership
of President Obama, the United States of America will join forces with
Europe to drive this new deal. For the benefit of our societies, for
the benefit of the world."


"The Chinese Government and I myself have always attached great
importance to China-U.S. relations. In the new historic era, I look
forward to working together with you to continuously strengthen
dialogue and exchanges between our two countries."


"I offer you my heartfelt congratulations on your historic victory in
the presidential election.

"The world faces significant challenges at the start of your term. I
am convinced that Europe and the United States will work closely and
in a spirit of mutual trust together to confront new dangers and risks
and will seize the opportunities presented by our global world."


"The Japan-U.S. alliance is key to Japanese diplomacy and it is the
foundation for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. With
President-elect Obama, I will strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance
further and work toward resolving global issues such as the world
economy, terror and the environment."


"Africa, which today stands proud of your achievements, can only but
look forward to a fruitful working relationship with you both at a
bilateral and multilateral levels in our endeavor to create a better
world for all who live in it."


"I look forward to meeting with the President-elect so that we can
continue to strengthen the special bond that exists between Canada and
the United States."


"Senator Obama's message of hope is not just for America's future, it
is also a message of hope for the world as well. A world which is now
in many respects fearful for its future."


"Senator Obama will be taking office at a critical juncture. There are
many pressing challenges facing the international community, including
the global financial crisis and global warming. We look forward to
working closely with President-elect Obama and his team to address
these challenges."


Indonesia especially hopes that the U.S., under new leadership, will
stand in the front and take real action to overcome the global
financial crisis, especially since the crisis was triggered by the
financial conditions in the U.S."


"We welcome his triumph in the same vein that we place the integrity
of the US electoral process and the choices made by the American
people in high regard. We likewise note the making of history with the
election of Senator Obama as the first African-American president of
the United States."



"The president-elect has promised changes in policies. There is a
capacity for the improvement of ties between America and Iran if Obama
pursues his campaign promises, including not confronting other
countries as Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also concentrating
on America's state matters and removing the American people's


"We hope the president-elect in the United States will stay the course
and would continue the U.S. engagement in the peace process without
delay. We hope the two-state vision would be transferred from a vision
to a realistic track immediately."

(Compiled by Asia Desk)

Christian and Muslim Leaders Hold Unprecedented Vatican Meetings; Vow to Combat Terror

From Reuters - November 6, 2008



By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Catholic and Muslim leaders at unprecedented Vatican meetings vowed on Thursday to work together to combat violence and terrorism, especially when carried out in God's name.


At the end of three days of meetings, the 58 scholars and leaders -- 29 from each side -- issued a 15-point final joint declaration which also included an appeal for the defense of minority religions.


The meetings came two years after the pope gave a speech hinting Islam was violent and irrational, sparking angry protests in the Middle East. The Muslims formed their group to refute that speech and seek better mutual understanding.


"We profess that Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony among believers, and for humanity as a whole, renouncing any oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism, especially that committed in the name of religion, and upholding the principle of justice for all," the declaration said.


It also called for respect for religious minorities, adding that they should be "entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subjected to any form of mockery or ridicule."


The Vatican has long called for religious freedom for minority Christians in places such as Saudi Arabia and for an end to violence against Christians in Iraq.


The declaration's words about avoiding mockery or ridicule appeared to be a reference to events in 2006, when a Danish newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, sparking violent protests in the Islamic world.


Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict said Muslims and Christians shared moral values and should defend them together.


"There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage," the German-born pope said.


"We should thus work together in promoting genuine respect for the dignity of the human person and fundamental human rights, even though our anthropological visions and our theologies justify this in different ways."


The Vatican has also participated in interfaith talks launched this year by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, who will meet at the United Nations in New York next week with other heads of state to further promote his initiative.


These and other dialogues reflect a new urgency Muslim leaders have felt after the September 11 attacks, the "clash of civilizations" theory and the pope's 2006 speech in Regensburg showed a widening gap between the world's two largest faiths.


Benedict said the Catholic-Muslim Forum, the official name for this dialogue now set to take place every two years, was "now confidently taking its first steps."



(Reuters) - In an unprecedented Vatican meeting, Pope Benedict urged Muslims to join Christians in defending their common moral values and respect for human rights despite their theological differences.

The late Pope John Paul pioneered better relations between Catholicism and Islam and was the first pope to visit a mosque, but they have been strained under Benedict.

Following are some highlights of Catholic-Muslim relations since Benedict's election in April 2005:

-- After his election, Pope Benedict says better relations with other faiths was a priority for him.

-- In June 2006, Benedict downgrades the Vatican interfaith dialogue department by turning it into a division of its culture ministry and posting its director as a papal ambassador abroad.

-- In September 2006, the pope delivers the Regensburg speech implying Islam is violent and irrational. After bloody protests in the Middle East, he regrets any misunderstanding his speech caused but does not apologize.

-- A group of 38 Muslim religious leaders and scholars writes to Benedict in October 2006 pointing out errors about Islam in his Regensburg speech. They receive no reply.

-- The Vatican's interfaith dialogue council is restored to former status as a separate department in June 2007.

-- In October 2007, the same Muslim group, now with 138 signatories, issues a manifesto called "A Common Word" inviting Christian churches to a dialogue based on what it said were the two faith's shared principles of love of God and neighbor.

-- Pope Benedict receives Saudi Arabian King Abdullah at the Vatican in November and discussed ways to improve dialogue.

-- Initially cautious, the Vatican finally accepts the Common Word invitation and agrees in March 2008 to set up the Catholic-Muslim Forum that meets every other year.

-- In April 2008, the pope baptizes Muslim-born Italian journalist Magdi Allam at Easter Mass. A Common Word spokesman sharply criticizes the prominence given this conversion.

-- Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, attends interfaith conference hosted by King Abdullah in Madrid in July 2008.

-- A Common Word delegation visits Vatican in November 2008 for first session of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, including an audience with Pope Benedict. 

Muslims Delay Obama Endorsement

From the Worcester Telegram and Gazzette News

Thursday, November 6, 2008
Muslims delay Obama endorsement

On a day that Americans turned a new page in the country's history of race relations with the election of an African American to the presidency, Muslims were still riding the back of the political bus.

A national coalition of 12 Muslim American organizations known as the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections waited until the day before Election Day to publicly release its "indirect endorsement" of Barack Obama. While endorsements traditionally are timed to give them maximum exposure, an e-mail received by the Telegram & Gazette was deliberately sent so late that Mr. Obama's opponents had little time to react, according to Tahir Ali, national coordinator.

By making an "indirect endorsement," but keeping it low profile, Mr. Ali said, the organization avoided two pitfalls: "creating problems for the Obama campaign (and) accepting exclusion from the American mainstream," by not endorsing at all.

Islamic organizations were sensitive to the false assertions of the opponents of Mr. Obama, whose middle name is Hussein, that he is a Muslim. "The problem if we were to announce this endorsement earlier: it would have fallen in the wrong hands."

Rather than extolling Mr. Obama's virtues, the e-mail notes the "indirect AMT endorsement is embodied in the AMT-PAC scorecard … which gives 981 points to Obama and 291 to McCain." The scorecard weighs candidate positions on topics including civil rights, ending the war in Iraq, the economy and healthcare, said Mr. Ali, a Westboro resident.

"It's going to be used politically against" Mr. Obama, said Mr. Ali, a Westboro resident. He harkened to the 2000 election, when the American Muslim Alliance donated $50,000 to Hillary Clinton for her 2000 campaign to become a U.S. senator from New York.

Rick Lazio, her Republican opponent, called it blood money and Mrs. Clinton returned the donation, Mr. Ali recalled. While Muslims continued to support her Senate run, the humiliation was a factor in their support of Mr. Obama against her in the Democratic primary this year, he said.

There did not seem to be a similar backlash when Muslim organizations backed Gov. George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election and gave "qualified" support to Sen. John F. Kerry for president in 2004, Mr. Ali said.

The 7 million U.S. Muslims — with an estimated 4.9 million of them registered to vote — represent a potent political force, according to Mr. Ali, author of the book "The Muslim Vote Counts." Muslims know how to harness that power, he said.

In the 1996 presidential election 56 percent of Muslims voted Democrat and 32 percent cast Republican ballots, Mr. Ali said. But Muslim organizations rallied their people behind Mr. Bush, resulting in 80 percent of them backing the Texan in 2000 and possibly making the difference in Florida, where Mr. Bush won by fewer than 600 votes, Mr. Ali said.

Al Gore "completely ignored us," he said. Mr. Bush met with representatives of Muslim organizations and addressed the needs they raised, saying that American law at the time was being used to discriminate against Muslims and the United States should be "an honest broker" in the Middle East peace process, said Mr. Ali, a naturalized American born in Pakistan.

The Muslims came to regret their support. Mr. Ali, who remains a registered Republican, said the policies of the Bush regime after 2001 have been hostile to them.

Despite moderate Republicans like Colin Powell, Muslims face a "neocon-led nefarious Islamophobic nexus of bigotry" from others, he said. Mr. Ali said he told a Muslim crowd in the battleground state of Indiana this past weekend, where he engaged in a get-out-the-vote effort, "On one hand we have a party that is hostile to us, on the other we have a party that completely ignores us, and to sit out the presidential election will be political death for sure."

But yesterday, after Mr. Obama won the election — including the traditionally Republican state of Indiana by 26,163 votes — Mr. Ali called it "a proud moment. Now I can say I belong to a country where they can elect a minority.

"It shows America has come a long way. It has matured itself out of these bigotry issues. That Jim Crow mentality has gone."

The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections is an umbrella organization representing American Muslim Alliance, American Muslims for Palestine, Council on American Islamic Relations , Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim Alliance in North America, Muslim American Society-Freedom Foundation, Muslim Student Association — National, Muslim Ummah of North America, and United Muslims of America. Islamic Educational Center of Orange County, Islamic Society of North America and Muslim Public Affairs Council are affiliated with AMT as observers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Statement on Prop. 8 by Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of CA

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California
google news commentA Change in Consciousness - 12 hours ago

The people who were born after the Apollo pictures of the Earth seen from space represent the first people who will fully inhabit a new consciousness. Those of us, like myself, who took this amazing picture in as someone already living on the Earth, had to learn this consciousness; for those born after me it is their birthright.

The recognition of the civil rights of lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual people is part of the broad shift in consciousness towards which we are moving. Same-sex marriage in California is an important vehicle in the on-going work of making sure all American citizens enjoy the same rights in civil society.

This shift in consciousness, including same-sex marriage,  is a move towards the good. I affirm this from a spiritual, religious point of view. As a Christian, I view the trajectory of history as moving us towards global reconciliation and global justice. The Gospels tell us that Jesus said that God's love is pervasive. He used the idea of rain and sunshine, both of which fall on all the world, irrespective of people's prejudices about who is deserving or who is not.

If Proposition 8 passes, which I hope it does not, those of us committed to civil rights for all will simply continue to hope, and continue to work. Perseverance, knowing that God continues to travel with those who are disenfranchised, is a path we know. I trust, however, that the great Californians with whom I live will continue their tradition of forging ahead towards what lies before our whole great country.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Elections Not a Good Time to be an American Muslim

Two Muslim women watch US Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama during a rally in Minneapolis

October 28, 2008

Elections not a good time to be a American Muslim

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Muslims are facing tough times fearful about growing suspicions of Islam amid false rumors that Democratic nominee Barack Obama is a Muslim and could have links to terrorists.

The Illinois senator, who on November 4 could become the first black American elected to the White House, is Christian. But as a son of a Kenyan father and American mother, he spent his childhood in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation.

"Not since the election of John Kennedy (a Catholic) in 1960 has the religious faith of a US presidential candidate generated so much distortion as the false claims generated by extremist critics that Senator Barack Obama, the candidate of the Democratic Party, is a stealth Muslim," said a joint petition by some 100 Islamic scholars.

"This is part of an islamophobic hate campaign that fuels prejudice against Americans who practice their Islamic faith and Muslims worldwide," the group who themselves "concerned scholars" stressed.

In September, a controversial DVD on Islam was circulated in Florida, adding fuel to the fire of the US election campaign.

The video, titled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" and released more than a year ago by a group called Clarion Fund, showed images of young children reciting appeals for jihad mixed with archival footage of Hitler Youths.

Already stigmatized in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Muslim community of the United States feels it has been ostracized during the current election campaign.

"The problem is there has been so many smears against Islam and Muslims that the candidates are very reluctant now to engage with Muslims for fear of coming under attack by their opponents," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights advocacy group.

"That's a very disturbing situation."

In June, Obama presented his apologies to two women wearing Islamic scarves who wanted to have their picture taken with the Democratic candidate but were hussled away by party activists.

And just a couple of weeks ago Republican nominee John McCain was forced to step in at a rally when a member of the audience suggested Obama was an Arab. McCain scoffed at the suggestion and referred to his opponent as the father of a "decent family."

"Fortunately, we have courageous individuals like Colin Powell who came up against that kind of thinking," said Hooper.

But "we are hoping that public officials and public leaders in our society would take up this call to reject islamophobia," he said. "We are still waiting for it to happen."

Powell, a Republican who was a member of the administration of President George W. Bush, came out recently in support of Obama's candidacy and also rejected islamophobic attacks.

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" Powell asked rhetorically. "The answer's no. Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated (with) terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

But the prejudices remain strong. A president of a Republican club in New Mexico, Macia Stirman, was forced to resign recently after declaring that she could not understand why people wanted to put a Muslim to the White House.

Such charges appear to have an effect at least on a small portion of the electorate.

A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released on October 19 showed that when asked about Obama's religious beliefs, a small but consistent minority of voters, 12 percent, continue to say that the Democratic nominee is a Muslim.

This percentage has changed little since September, when 13 percent said that about Obama, the survey showed.

Shiite and Sunni imams from the Detroit area meet at the House of Wisdom mosque

U.S. Muslim Voters are Election-Year Outcasts

From the Associated Press

U.S. Muslim voters are election-year outcasts

By RACHEL ZOLL AP Religion Writer
Article Date: Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lepers. Untouchables. Politically radioactive.

These are ways American Muslims describe their status in an election year when Barack Obama's opponents are spreading rumors that he is Muslim, when he is Christian, and linking him to terrorists.

So when Colin Powell, a Republican, condemned using Muslim as a smear — a tactic he said members of his own party allowed — there was an outpouring of gratitude and relief from American Muslims.

"That speech really came out of left field and really shocked us," said Wajahat Ali, 27, an attorney and playwright from Fremont, Calif. "The sense is that it's about time. He said something that needed to be said."

The retired general, who was President Bush's first secretary of state, made the comments on NBC's "Meet the Press," as he broke with his party to endorse the Democratic nominee for president. Powell noted in last Sunday's broadcast that Republican John McCain did not spread rumors about Obama's faith, but Powell said he was "troubled" that others did.

"The correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America," Powell said. "Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated (with) terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Powell said he felt especially strongly about the rumors because of a photo he saw in The New Yorker magazine of the mother of a Muslim soldier in Arlington Cemetery embracing her son's grave, which was marked with a Muslim crescent and star. The solider, Kareem R. Khan of New Jersey, was 20 when he was killed in Iraq.

"We American Muslims have talked about our patriotism and the heroism of some American Muslims till we were blue in the face, and neither the media nor the people listen," said Seeme Hasan, a Pueblo, Colo., Republican whose family has given tens of thousands of dollars to the GOP.

"Gen. Powell made people listen and at a very humane level," said Hasan, who is backing McCain. "More people in leadership positions need to say this and recognize this — that American Muslims have worked very hard to fight this war on terror."

The inaccurate claims that Obama is secretly Muslim started as soon as he was mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. There were false rumors that he was educated at a radical Islamic school as a child in Indonesia and that he was sworn into the Senate on the Quran.

His opponents emphasized his middle name — Hussein — and circulated a photo of him wearing traditional tribal garb on a 2006 visit to Somalia.

Kari Ansari, a mother of three from Villa Park, Ill., said the allegations upset her 10-year-old son.

"It sort of made him feel like, 'If they won't elect him president just for trying on Muslim clothes, they will never elect me because I'm a real Muslim,'" said Ansari, a founder of America's Muslim Family, a quarterly magazine. "That's heartbreaking for us as Muslim parents."

Obama has fought the claims in speeches and on a campaign Web site dedicated to debunking inaccuracies about him. But the belief persists.

A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found 12 percent of voters believed the Illinois senator is Muslim. That poll was released Tuesday — coincidentally, the same day the head of a New Mexico Republican women's group called Obama a "Muslim socialist" and said "Muslims are our enemies." County and GOP officials condemned the statements.

"Muslims feel jaded by the 2008 election precisely because they see the smearing of their identity," Ali said. "Muslim or Arab is seen as a scarlet letter, political leprosy, kryptonite. There is that taint there. We're the lowest of the low."

The experience isn't entirely new for American Muslims, who have struggled for acceptance in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The major parties have quietly courted them for years, yet presidential candidates have refused to publicly associate with them, leaders say.

The exact number of U.S. Muslim voters is not known. But many are wealthy professionals who came to the country to earn graduate degrees in engineering, medicine and business. They settled in significant numbers in key states including Michigan and Florida.

Presidential candidates "are not willing to have their photo taken, they don't meet with Muslim organizations, and they shy away from any issue that may link them to the Muslim community," said Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Los Angeles advocacy group leading a national Muslim voter registration campaign.

"We're treated as untouchables in politics," al-Marayati said.

Yet, this year has been especially painful because of the attacks on Obama.

Hesham Hassaballa, a physician and author from Chicago, said this month he formally left the GOP, partly because of the allegations.

Like many other Muslims, Hassaballa had joined the Republican Party because of its small-government philosophy, social conservatism and pledge to limit taxes. In 2000, he supported McCain in the primaries, then Bush in the final election. Four years later, he backed Democrat John Kerry for president, partly to protest Bush policies on detaining and interrogating terror suspects, but remained Republican.

Now, he says the party has abandoned its principles.

"The McCain of 2008 is not the McCain of 2000," Hassaballa said. "With the way the campaign has been going and a lot of the anti-Muslim rhetoric, just how the McCain campaign has conducted itself, just really turned me off."

The McCain campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

In defending himself, Obama has rejected the idea that being called Muslim is an insult. His campaign also has an outreach coordinator to the Muslim community.

Some American Muslims said they wished the Illinois senator would say more forcefully that their religion should not be used as a smear, but said they understood that it could damage his presidential bid in this political climate.

"I don't think there could have been any better messenger than Colin Powell, being someone who is a well-respected Republican, a former secretary of state and an army general," said Arsalan Iftikhar, a Washington, D.C., civil rights lawyer and writer who supports Obama. "American Muslims feel slightly politically radioactive at this time. This sends a resounding message of inclusiveness."

Valentine's Day Across the Muslim World (2012)