Test of political maturity facing American Muslims

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As the end of the year approaches, American political circles are getting into gear for the electoral campaigns which will dominate 2004, culminating in the presidential elections at the end of the year. With Bush in trouble over Iraq, Democratic candidates are finally putting themselves forward for what is likely to be a close-run thing. Last time, the elections were notable for a number of things: the apparent stupidity of George W. Bush, which challenged the reputation even of Dan Quayle; Al Gore’s success in losing from an apparently unbeatable position; and of course the electoral shenanigans in Florida, where the Republican establishment under Jeb Bush got together to ensure George W.’s victory by the sort of political gerry-mandering that gives Pakistani politics a bad name.

None of which is particularly interesting for Muslims. What we cannot afford to forget, however, is the fact that some misguided few actually campaigned to mobilise the Muslim vote collectively to support George Bush, arguing that Bill Clinton had been the most pro-Israel president ever, and that the Republicans’ ‘moral’ agenda made them the Muslims’ natural allies. In hindsight, knowing what we now know about Bush and the neo-conservatives, that seems incredible; but it is true. Of course, some Muslims even then argued that each candidates was as bad as the other, that neither would be any good for Muslims, and that the best and only way forward was to abstain from mainstream electoral politics, and mobilise independently and self-sufficiently on our own platforms.

But time and again we are told the same thing: it is too hard, brother, much better to tie our fortunes to one candidate or the other and hope for rewards if our man wins. This is democracy, brother… every man has a say. We can influence the American government, make it less pro-Israel, introduce more Islamic policies to this great country…

Surely now, four years later, Muslims cannot make the same mistake again? Or can they, in the belief that anybody must be better than Bush? Already candidates are emerging, such as former general Wesley Clarke, who are prepared to challenge Bush on his war against Iraq and the neo-conservative agenda to which his administration is committed. Already the whispers are starting… "if we support such and such candidate now, he will owe us big time. The thing is to be committed from the beginning, not jump on a winning bandwagon late That’s how the Jews do it, brother… and look how powerful they are…"

No matter how hard it is, Muslims in America must make the effort to overcome the challenges, pressures and enmity facing us to establish effective political organisations capable of protecting Muslims against the enemies we have, and of protecting and pursuing Muslim needs and interests, in America and elsewhere, without being dependent on the goodwill of politicians who will never be true to anyone, least of all us.

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