Muslim Americans and the 2012 Election: What it Means for America

by John Shaheen for

Over 120 million Americans took to the polls on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 to cast their votes for the presidency, local representatives and ballot initiatives. In the midst of this sea of voters were also Muslim Americans, a growing community whose numbers can make a significant impact in certain crucial centers of political contention.

Muslims were involved not only in voting in key races, but were also instrumental in getting the vote out. In Tennessee, Remziya Suleyman founded the American Center for Outreach (ACO), an organization that seeks to educate Muslims about the political process and encourage them to vote. Such efforts are not unique to Tennessee but are happening across the United States.

Civic participation did not end at the polling booth or mobilizing the vote, but also consisted of Muslim Americans running for office. On the national scene Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson, the first two Muslim members of Congress were easily re-elected to office. Indian-American Muslim and Democratic candidate Syed Taj made a valiant effort in Michigan’s 11th Congressional district where he was defeated by Kerry Bentivolio; Taj gathered 44% of the vote.

Interestingly, the night also saw the defeat of prominent political backers of the anti-Muslim movement, dubbed by some journalists as the “Islamophobia” or “anti-Islam caucus”; the group of political agitators was dealt a severe blow losing Islamophobic politicians Rep. Allen West (R-FL), Rep. Adam Hasner (R-FL), Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), republican candidate Charles Fuqua and Rep.Chip Cravaack (R-MN).‘s Spencer Ackerman put it best when describing the defeat of the Islamophobia movement, “The lonely crusade of the anti-Islam set just got a little lonelier.”

The motivations of Muslim voters is wide and varied and while fighting Islamophobia is important in the minds of Muslims, (they are sure to be relieved at the loss of the Islamophobia caucus), at the forefront of their minds, just like other citizens is the economy. In that sense a large majority of Muslims voted for President Obama as they did in 2008. It is important to note that the turnout for Obama, while indicative of strong support for the President is strikingly different in its tone this time. The enthusiasm gap is real amongst Muslims as it is with many other demographic groups who want to see concrete steps by both parties to resolve the issues plaguing the country.

Forward,” the catch-phrase of President Barack Obama during his 2012 re-election campaign has to be actualized, and this will only happen by coming together as “one nation,” i.e. staying true to America’s ethos of strength in diversity. A return to confidence in E pluribus unum is to etch out a path into a future where all are welcome which  must be coupled by a sincere striving together to make a better and more “perfect union” because as well all know our work as citizens does not end at the polling booth.