As a Muslim American, I often think I should include this disclaimer before writing about President Obama: â€œThe President of the United States is not a Muslim — secret, or otherwise. He has not shown up at any of our meetings; nor have we received any special consideration from State or Federal governments for being Muslims in America.â€
Oh, wait, I would need to clarify the above; we have received some special consideration for being Muslim in America if you count being spied upon by the NYPD, being profiled at U.S. airports with consistent but â€œrandomâ€ super security checks, or being unfairly denied building permits and zoning permission when attempting to build or expand our places of worship (see the list of articles here). And we must include certain United States members of Congress, particularly Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, and N.Y. Rep. Peter King who have deemed Muslim Americans as worthy of special attention by vilifying the entire faith group in America as disloyal, suspicious traitors to our country.
Muslim Americans would appreciate our presidentâ€™s support in standing with us against the religious and racist slurs, inequities and outright violations of our civil rights, but so far, weâ€™re just not feeling it.
I attended a dinner last weekend hosted by the Muslim Advocates in Arlington, Va., where Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison spoke after receiving an award of recognition from this dynamic organization. He reminded the audience that itâ€™s not the presidentâ€™s job to inspire us, or to defend our civil rights — instead, itâ€™s our responsibility as U.S. citizens to stand for ourselves to demand that we be given the same rights as other Americans.
That speech got me thinking. I realized Rep. Ellison was right: Itâ€™s not the presidentâ€™s job to inspire my faith community; however, right now, it is his job to convince us that we need to go out and vote for him.
For too many reasons to list here, Mitt Romney is not the candidate many Muslims will support. However, President Obama should not take our vote for granted. A humble word to his campaign: Ignore Muslim Americans at your peril. But before Rep. Bachmann gets out her witch-hunting gear, let me explain.
The president has yet to visit an American mosque during his term. He has reached out to other faith groups, but not ours. Who really still believes heâ€™s a secret Muslim? Only crazy birther conspiracy theorists who arenâ€™t going to vote for him anyway, so the presidentâ€™s campaign should realize theyâ€™re missing the boat if he doesnâ€™t reach out to the Muslim base.
Oh, why? Muslims are negligible in population, right? Wrong. In all three of the very important swing states, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, the Muslims are a significant segment of the population. Southern and Northern Ohio are chock full of Muslim voters. Northern Virginia and the Richmond area have some of the most influential and educated Muslim voters in America. Finally, thereâ€™s Florida where Hillsborough County features an established and politically active Muslim constituency among many others. Muslims can put the swing in the vote for President Obama, if they turn out. So, if anyone on the Presidentâ€™s campaign happens to read this, please pass this note on to my president:
â€œWe came out for you in 2008, Mr. President. We may not agree with every policy youâ€™ve put forth, but weâ€™ll support you for another four years if youâ€™d only ask us. Otherwise, many Muslim voters may just stay home, especially in Virginia, Ohio and Florida.
Iâ€™d like to invite you to make a quick stop at my mosque, the ADAMS Center in Sterling, Va. Itâ€™s just a 30-minute drive from the White House, and weâ€™d be more than happy to have you come by. We have a very American basketball gym from which you can tell Americaâ€™s Muslims why we should come out to the polls to vote for you. I promise, 5-6 million votes will come your way with one quick campaign stop. Seriously, come talk to us, we vote!â€