American Muslims gaining foothold in politics

The sizeable Muslim community increased greatly over the past one hundred years, mainly due to the increase in the number of Muslim immigrants, and the high rate of Americans who convert to Islam.

American Muslims gaining foothold in politics

The history of Islamin the United Statesdates back to the 18th century, with the first Muslim inhabitants. The sizeableMuslim community increased greatly over the past one hundred years, mainly dueto the increase in the number of Muslim immigrants, and the high rate ofAmericans who convert to Islam.

Until recently, the American Muslim community hadn't been involved in thepolitical process. Like other immigrants, Muslims focused on finding economicsecurity before thinking about politics.

But now, U.S. Muslims are becoming more involved in the political process. Theyare voting, running for office and getting more involved in civic and politicallife at every level.

Based on tallies of mosque membership and Muslim names, several nationalorganizations estimate there are 4.5 million to 6 million American Muslims. Upto a third of American Muslims are African-Americans who vote mostly forDemocrats. The rest come from Pakistan,India, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa.

The Muslim political involvement grew in the U.S. after the September 11, 2001attacks, according to Houston City Councilman M.J. Khan, a U.S. Muslim ofPakistani origin.

The "9/11 disaster" has focused every community, including Muslim communities,on political activism, Khan said. The attacks jolted Muslims into realizingthat they must make themselves known to their neighbors and heard by theirgovernment.

"I think American society in general is a lot more interested in world affairs… and getting to know the religions, different cultures after 9/11 than it wasbefore," Khan said.

Khan, a Republican, represents an overwhelmingly Christian district in Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States,with a Muslim population of roughly 250,000. He was first elected to citycouncil in 2003 and will seek re-election again in 2007.

"My election was significant in the fact that I come from a different culture,a different background, a different religion, and yet people voted for me,"Khan said in an interview hosted March 5 by the U.S. State Department.

In addition to his position on the council, Khan is president of a real estatedevelopment company and has served as president of the Pakistan AmericanAssociation of Greater Houston and as vice president of the Islamic Society ofGreater Houston.

Although Khan says that questions about Islam "never came up" during hiselection campaign, he believes that his faith influences his work. "If I dowell, hopefully, it will open doors for other Muslims to follow in [my]footsteps in going into public office and serving the society," he said.

"I don't wear my religion on my sleeve, but I don't hide it either," Khan said,adding that he tries to be "the best public servant" to serve all of hisconstituents "indiscriminately."

Khan also hailed the election of Keith Ellison -- a Muslim from Minnesota -- to Congress"as a significant step toward political empowerment of the Muslim community."

He also expressed optimism about the future of American Muslims. In Houston, for example, thetwo major political parties choose a chairman to run party business in votingareas called precincts. Until 2002, he said, few of those precinct chairs wereMuslim, but today there are more than 70 Muslim precinct chairs in eastern Houston alone.

"If people just take an interest in politics, the chance of success is therefor them," Khan said.

Moreover, Muslims are now doing more "lobbying," a process by which interestgroups in the U.S.educate and influence members of Congress, Khan said.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties recruit voters among Muslims, andwell-educated, financially stable Muslims are attractive to candidates not onlyfor votes, but for campaign donations.

In the most recent presidential election, many Muslims attended the politicalparties' nominating conventions and organized political action committees topool donations to candidates.

When asked about the possibility of a Muslim president in the U.S., Khan said:"For sure, there will be a president who will be from the Islamic community inthe future of America … you can be assured that there will be a Muslim sittingin the White House."

"American society is ready for diversity in its highest offices," he said.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16