Reflections: American Muslims on the Next Four Obama Years

obama for america
I was precinct walking out in Las Vegas.

The glitter and glamour is going to be raging all week in Washington DC as inauguration gets under way.  Arguably the concerns and challenges facing our nation brought out record number of citizens to re-elect President Obama.  While a diverse coalition of communities came forward to vote, what is being framed as a divisive indicator of the change that has set in, the hopes and dreams of those voting to re-elect the President were clouded by four years of performance that hasn’t met expectations from 2008. (Even I reluctantly campaigned for him in Nevada this year.)

The American Muslim community overwhelmingly voted for President Obama’s re-election.  According to a CAIR released report, the “American Muslim Voters and 2012 Election”, which was a demographic survey of attitudes, found that over two-thirds of the community supported President Obama prior to the election.  An informal poll conducted by CAIR found that out of 650 voters contacted, 95.5% went to the polls on Nov. 6 and that 88 percent cast their votes to re-elect President Obama.  Many of these respondents were in the 5 swing states that President Obama won.

To follow up on the incredible level of political engagement, I searched for as many opinions of community activists, advocates and leaders to present their reflections on this past election and what political activism will look like over the course of the next four years.

The diversity of views presented in the reflection pieces represents the diversity of opinion in the American Muslim community.  Interestingly enough regardless of the politics of the responders, the key challenge identified overwhelmingly deals with the issue of the community lacking focus on policy goals.

Sarah Moussa starts off where we in the community inevitably end up: The lesser of two evils.

Faisal Qazi, the President of MINDS, stated in “What Promises Were Broken?” that President Obama didn’t make any particular promises to the American Muslim community and that the community assumed that certain cause celebre would be taken up by the Obama administration.  On the other side, Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of CAIR SFBA, argues in “Hold President Obama Accountable” that even with the broken promises on Guantamo and expansion of Drone strikes through a secret kill list, this is an opportunity to change the political landscape and build political power.

In “Looking Toward a Presidential Legacy,” Pamela Taylor, co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values, builds on the opportunity the community has by connecting it to the fact that President Obama is looking to establish his legacy by clearly defining his doctrines and setting out the course of the nation.

The legacy so far from the first term includes the Lilly Ledbetter Act which gives women equal pay, affordable health care to millions of Americans through the Affordable Care Act, drawing down Afghanistan war and ending the Iraq war, as well as working with the public and private sectors to bring the U.S. back from the brink of financial disaster according to Amanda Quiraishi, a blogger and interfaith activist, writing in her piece “A Diversity of Political Views”.  But policy itself will shift because Obama is no longer beholden to the political process, according to Souheila Al-Jadda in her piece “Policy Removed from Politics.”

In “Politics is a Marathon, not a 100 Meter Dash” Salim Patel, President of the Passiac Board of Education in New Jersey grounds the American Muslim reality for the next four years on the notion that while President Obama is free of seeking public office, he is not free to craft policy as he sees fit because of the 2016 elections and the Democratic party’s next Presidential nominee.  Similarly, Mohamed Elibiary, a Texas Conservative, writes in “For Muslims, Policy Objectives Must Remain Bipartisan” that President Obama only has two years of effective policy making before he becomes a lame duck president due to the 2014 mid-term elections.

American Muslims in particular were vexed by a difficult decision facing them this Election Day- are all the factors that have made President Obama’s tenure so tumultuous- those broken promises, or rather unfulfilled promises- lead us to ask: How do we proceed from here?  Linda Sarsour provides the answer in her piece “Pushing the Progressive Agenda” by outlining the challenges we face and how Muslim organizations need to push through those hurdles.

But the question is always on the minds of community members, it begins with asking activists and organizations what happens with a Muslim vote after a vote is cast.  Hiroano Okahana explores that in his piece “What Does the Muslim Vote Mean?” suggesting that the community’s vote may just be a label with little value if organizations don’t delve deeper in their civic engagement programming.

Similarly, Haider Ali Anwar, President of MSA West, explores the desires of American Muslim college students after this recent election in his piece “College Muslims Reach Political Maturity.”

At the end our contributors would agree with Zeba Iqbal in “that political empowerment is a positive endeavor and an investment in the future of our community” and in her piece “#Muslimvote and Leveraging Future Muslim Political Empowerment” she suggests that social media is an important tool in not just engaging the community but connecting it with larger policy issues through activism on the ground.

Read all of the folks I had the chance to communicate with and who offered their contributions by clicking on the links.

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