US candidates have to earn our votes: Muslims

US Muslims want the mentality to be changed in elections and say candidates should make efforts to earn their votes if they want to.

US candidates have to earn our votes: Muslims

US Muslims want the mentality to be changed in elections and say candidates should make efforts to earn their votes if they want to.

"We know he isn't a Muslim but who cares if he is?" said Sofian Zakkout, director of the American Muslim Association of North America.

Obama's pledge "to bring communities together" is his appeal, Zakkout said, and "We don't expect him to come to us and say, 'I'm with you.' We don't need that."

And Saaqib Rangoonwala, managing editor of Southern California InFocus, a Muslim newspaper, sees a close election in which "American Muslim votes will be needed and it is time for Muslims to take a stand ...

"Muslims are not less deserving of Obama's time than other groups that he has met with ... to his credit, he met with a Muslim leader and personally apologized to the Muslim women who were banned by campaign volunteers from sitting behind the podium at a Detroit rally because the women wore hijabs," he said.

"Earn our votes"

"These actions are well and good," Rangoonwala said, but "Muslims need to let Obama know that he has to earn their votes."

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there was a high level of interest in the presidential election among Muslims, with the main issues being civil rights, peace in the Middle East, immigration, the economy and Islamophobia.

But he thinks Obama may be "overcompensating" in trying to correct the misconception he is a Muslim, leaving the impression that being a Muslim is somehow un-American -- a "double whammy."

"Many in the Muslim community think he is being sheepish in reaching out to them," he said.

Obama already has faced problems within his own Christian church, having to distance himself from comments by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that were perceived by some as anti-American.

A 2007 Pew report found that U.S. Muslims were mainly middle class and mostly in mainstream society. A later survey of likely voters by the Council on American-Islamic Relations also found them largely Democrats and young, with 75 percent of them U.S.-born or having lived in the country for 20 years or more.

The Pew reports have estimated Muslims at just 0.06 percent of the population, although other reports have placed the number higher.

In Minneapolis, which has a large concentration of Somali Muslim immigrants, Mohamed Burk, 53, said, "I'm listening and thinking," but he is undecided between Obama and McCain.

Reuters

Last Mod: 26 Temmuz 2008, 10:00
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