Muslim American

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Muslim American is a term for United States citizens of Muslim belief, by birth or conversion, or possibly who identify with a Muslim cultural heritage. It is sometimes incorrectly applied to immigrants from Muslim-majority countries who are not Muslim-identified. The term Arab American, or, as a more specific example, Lebanese American would apply to Americans such as General John Abizaid or Senator James Abourezk, both American-born Christians of Lebanese immigrant parents.

Muslim Americans have been slow to form a political bloc, although they actually outnumber extremely politically active Jewish Americans.[1] Until 2000, when Keith Ellison was elected to Congress in Minnesota (U.S. state)|Minnesota, the highest-ranking Muslim in elective office was Larry Shaw, a North Carolina (U.S. state) state senator.


Shaw, in 2008, did make an appeal on health care, in which he joined in an interfaith appeal. [2] In 2009, he became the new chair of the Council on American Islamic Relations[3]

Several Muslim Americans are active in Democratic party politics at a high level. James Zogby is on the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and co-chair of the DNC Resolutions Committee. Zogby He accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of waging "proxy war" on President Barack Obama, by criticizing his awarding the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Conference. At the 2001 World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, a number of attendees attacked Israel. Even though Israelis including Shimon Peres praised her for moderating the language, the Jerusalem Post charged her with "the destruction of the universality and moral foundation of human rights". [4]

Mazen Asbahi was, for a few days, Muslim outreach coordinator for the Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008, but resigned after it was revealed he had briefly served on a board of a directors, eight years previously, with an imam who had been linked to a terrorist group. [5]

Bloc votes

"In 1996 Muslims endorsed Republican Richard Zimmer for an open Senate seat in New Jersey. Zimmer, afraid of Jewish criticism, announced publicly that he had not sought the endorsement. So New Jersey Muslims, in a miracle of organization, announced they were withdrawing their endorsement of Zimmer and endorsing his Democratic opponent, Robert Torricelli. Torricelli won narrowly and credited his election victory to “the Muslim vote.”

That was a bloc vote, and it worked. And on matters involving the Middle East Torricelli sounds very different from other senators from the northeastern states. He weighs carefully what stands he can take without offending New Jersey Muslims. "[1]

Muslim American influence groups

Muslim American interest groups, until 2000 and still to a limited extent compared to other minorities, have focused more on discrimination than on elections.

Daniel Pipes said the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR} "presents itself as just another civil-rights group. 'We are similar to a Muslim NAACP,' says spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. Its public language - about promoting 'interest and understanding among the general public with regards to Islam and Muslims in North America' - certainly boosts an image of moderation. For starters, it's on the wrong side in the war on terrorism. One indication came in October 1998, when the group demanded the removal of a Los Angeles billboard describing Osama bin Laden as 'the sworn enemy,' finding this depiction 'offensive to Muslims.'[6]

CAIR denied bin Laden's responsibility for the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa. "As Hooper saw it, those explosions resulted from some vague 'misunderstandings of both sides.'"

Muslim Americans and foreign policy

Contrary to some popular opinion, there are not a great many common domestic policy issues among Muslim Americans. For those that say "the Muslim vote should not be based on foreign policy.", what unifies them, both in terms of goals and implementation? Even a goal of wanting "their children to have an Islamic education and be protected from drugs and Hollywood-inspired sex and violence. But they may differ just as widely as do the candidates on how these desirable goals can best be achieved."

As far as foreign policy, Jerusalem, even more than Palestine in general, is unifying. For Pakistanis, Kashmir is as important as Palestine. "Israel is the issue around which the otherwise diverse American Jewish community has united and developed the incredible power of the Zionist leadership. But Israel’s thwarting of a Palestinian state and of Palestinian sovereignty over Islamic and Christian holy places can work just as well for Muslims and Arab Americans."[1] This issue becomes even more complex when it is considered that the goals of Christian Zionism|Christian Zionists do not necessarily match the goals of other Christians towards holy places in Israel.

Muslim Americans and terrorism

In the days following the 9/11 attack, President George W. Bush made a point of saying America was not at war with Islam. During a visit to the Islamic Centre of Washington, DC, President Bush said, "These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith, and it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war." [7]

Then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, however, was quoted, in February 2002, as saying "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you." on a conservative talk radio show hosted by Cal Thomas. Ashcroft has said he doesn't think these were his words, but Muslim American groups believe they extended a stereotype.[7]

American Muslim and Arab groups have pointed to Ashcroft's remarks as having negated Bush's efforts at promoting unity as a nation.

Online resources such as Militant Islam Monitor frequently suggest terrorist associations on the part of Muslim Americans. Some, indeed, have been correct; there definitely has been a problem with American charities that channeled funds to foreign organizations, such as the Irgun and Irish Republican Army. The Al-Khifa organization clearly trained terrorists, although for operations in the Afghanistan War (1978-92), with American knowledge.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Richard H. Curtiss (June 2000), "Election Watch: The Case for a Muslim- and Arab-American Bloc Vote In 2000", Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
  2. "State Senator Wants Moratorium on New Mental Health Policy and More", Muslim American Society, 13 September 2008
  3. Abdus Sattar Ghazali (3 March 2009), "An African-American elected as CAIR chairman", American Muslim Perspective
  4. James J. Zogby (19 August 2009), "AIPAC's Proxy War on Obama", Facts and Arts
  5. "Obama's Muslim coordinator out: Resignation spotlights struggle to woo Islamic voters", Chicago Sun-Times, 7 August 2009
  6. Daniel Pipes (22 April 2002), "CAIR: 'Moderate' friends of terror", New York Post
  7. 7.0 7.1 Anayat Durani (21 - 27 February 2002), "Absentminded bigotry: Anti-Muslim comments allegedly made by US Attorney-General John Ashcroft have caused an uproar in the Arab and Muslim American community,", Al-Ahram Weekly Online