Should Muslims Vote?
I have heard many a Muslim scholar and Imam telling their listeners not to vote and I have disagreed with them every time.
As I see it, here is the problem Muslims face in every US (or other?) election; our votes do not count. To be sure, they count as far as the politicians are concerned because they understand how razor-thin margins can make the difference between an electoral victory or defeat.
- Senator Al Franken from (MN) won his first election by a mere 7 votes and two recounts.
- Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) won her first election by 2900 votes after spending over $10 million of her own money; big egos require big spending!
- Ex-Gov Christine Gregoire won her first election by 129 recounted votes.
- And the greatest tragedy of all, King George The Worst (GW) won his first election by a microscopic 600 Floridian votes…incidentally, where Muslims gave him their greatest support and money..
That’s how crucial votes can be for those fighting elections.
So why shouldn’t Muslims vote?
Because politically, we do not exist.
Muslims vote as individuals, some voting for Republicans and some for Democrats. Some Muslims host fund-raising functions where the politician comes to their home, along with a number of ranking or well-heeled Muslims, photos are taken with a smiling candidate and at the end of the day, the politician may walk away with $5000 or so; not an impressive or a memorable number. Other groups can raise that little an amount without even having a fund-raiser and when they do host one, they raise tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars every time; they count!!
Votes or money, politicians must have a large number of one or the other (preferably both) in order to recognize that those people exist and must be respected. As long as Blacks, Jews, Chinese, Latinos etc., did not vote and did not have a cohesive attitude, they were ignored by politicians and remained at the bottom of the dung-hill. These minorities were not given jobs, loans for business, housing or civil rights. They could be killed or disappeared and nobody would make a noise over it. Even a lynching was not enough to gain the public comments of their political leaders.
They did not exist.
Today, these same minorities are vocal and act on concert when there is an issue of common concern so today, lashing out against any of these minorities, can be a career-ending act for a political leader.
One sect of Hassidic Jews in New York have used the Bloc-vote approach much to their advantage. Even though the Satmar sect of NY Jews distrust the government, they wholeheartedly participate in the democratic process. They vote as a bloc, delivering tens of thousands of votes in an election and the politicians are keenly aware of it. In return for this bloc-vote politicians have given the Hassidic communities wide latitude to Police themselves. They have their own emergency medical corps, their own security patrol and their own court system (shades of “Shariah Law”!) in which they handle criminal cases as well. This exercise of political power not only benefits the Hasidic Jews of New York, it benefits Jews everywhere because politicians watch such situations with interest, in case this should also happen in some form, in their own districts.
In order for Muslims to make difference and therefore to participate in elections, Muslims have to become aware of the particular issues facing us and they have to be concerned enough about them, to work together towards their common goals. So far, we seem to have a faint awareness of the ground shaking under us, but we tend to attribute that to passing traffic. We remain almost resolutely divided along sectarian lines of Shia and Sunni and within each of those as well. When Questioned about this division, Muslims with offer the same rehearsed lines, “We do not make distinctions, our doors are always open”. Yes, but the “Other” is not invited and one sect never goes to the other sect’s Mosques. This difference is sharper among the Sunnis, many of whom openly call the Shias “Kuffar” (Unbelievers), falsely accuse them of praying to other than God, of idolatry, of having a different Quran and of hating the Four Disciples of the prophet Mohammed…some even go as far as suggesting Shia hate the prophet Mohammed. The Shia on the other hand, isolate themselves from the Sunni and while some do hold grudges against a Disciple or two, they do not curse any disciple and they revere the prophet Mohammed as much if not more, then many a Sunni. For a more detailed understanding of the Shia-Sunni Schism, read “After the Prophet” by Lesley Hazleton. Many Sunni imams generally stay away from Shia Mosques, which unfortunately provides a divisive guidance to their flocks.
As Muslims in America, we are parents, children and spouses, just like any other American. We too have the same concerns as other non-Muslims do, concerns such as schooling, healthcare, housing, welfare for the poor, taxes and a healthy business climate. The economy gets our attention just as much as it does for other groups. However, the one overriding concern we Muslims have that other groups do not, is equal protection under the constitution.
Muslims are routinely treated as the greatest threat to the US and to the West, this approach to Muslims is used for training of our Police, our FBI, our military and our other agencies. Laws have been passed (AUMF 2001, NDAA Section 1031…renewed every year) that specifically target Muslims as suspects for terrorism who should be imprisoned in military jails without charges or trials…forever (“Until the end of the War on Terror”). Muslims are removed from flights based in the paranoia of the passengers or crew, sometimes in handcuffs, only to be released after an hour or so.
To all these injuries and more, there is never, yes never, a voice of protest or rejection by our political leaders. There is either silence or support for the abuse because, “it is a small sacrifice if it helps keep us safe”. Note that Muslims are being required to make the sacrifice, not the politicians.
What we need is to get 4000 Muslim voters in WA State, who agree to vote collectively as directed by a panel of their own selection and to vote collectively for two consecutive electoral cycles (four years). The mechanism for proving that Muslims will vote as a state-wide group can easily be set up by sending a state office candidate for the Primary elections and directing “The Muslim Vote” to that person. This candidate will only be needed for the Primary elections and the campaign will be limited only to Muslim groups so that we can be assured the almost every vote for this person, is from a Muslim who has committed to vote as directed by their selected leadership. It is the only credible way to prove that Muslim votes may determine a politician’s career. It is only through such a process that Muslims will have credibility and thus, the respect and the protection that follows from such respect.
I am not proposing a Muslim love-fest because that is unimaginable. I am suggesting that those amongst us who dislike “The Other” may continue to do so, but they should be willing to set their grudges aside and work together in the interests of a common cause.
Tragically, I do not see Muslims coming together in the foreseeable future and getting us to act together for a common concern is even farther away.
Until such a time as we Muslims can get our collective acts together, I fail to see any reason why I should cast my vote at all. In the past few cycles, I have voted, but only because one of the candidates reminded me of a Nazi wannabe (Republicans generally) out hunting for Muslim scalps, while the other was an enabler for the extremists. While George W Bush created the machinery that slaughtered and persecuted Muslims (and questions were raised), Obama normalized it into an everyday routine and there were no more questions.
I might still vote for the lesser, passive evil and hope to avoid the greater, active evil. Other than that, I am staying out of this pig-fest of elections.
Muslims do not count.