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The Future Of Muslim Politicians

Deedra Abboud, a Muslim American Democrat who is running for an Arizona Senate seat next year, spurred criticisms for writing about the separation of church and state on her Facebook in early July.

“Get out stinking Muslim,” read one post on her page.

The blue eyed hijabi convert who was born and raised in Arkansas said she knew exactly what would come out of the woodwork. The online trolls could not see further than her headscarf and what she stands for.

The voters are more fixated on her religious faith rather than her policies which defends gays, immigrants and the right to have an abortion, she said.

Abboud has a scarce chance of winning in a traditionally republican state that helped Donald Trump become the president. These attacks were just the few examples of the struggle Muslims face when running for office.

Abdulkader Sinno, an Indiana University scholar and editor of the book Muslims in Western Politics says he has tracked about 30 or 40 Muslim candidates in the Us and every one of them is subject to such attacks.

A Somali-born representative, Ilhan Omar described the “derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats” she received from a taxi driver in Washington, DC in December.

Keith Ellision, a distinguished Muslim American politician, congressman and deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has repeatedly faced allegations of being an anti-Semitic religious hard-liner.

An aide to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, was scrutinised for having links to the Muslim Brotherhood and for spending her childhood in Saudi Arabia.

Even the former president wasn’t excluded in the scrutiny towards Muslims. As a vowed Christian, he was constantly painted as a foreign-born Muslim.

About 70 percent were less likely to vote for Muslim candidates, says Sinno.

As a woman, Abboud has even more struggles to overcome. “She wears her religion not just on her sleeve, but on her head. At an inconscious level, voters only see her as a Muslim rather than as a white woman or a lawyer,” Sinno said.

Zead Ramadan, 50, a The Palestinian American coffee shop owner ran in a Democratic primary vote for the city council in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York City in 2013.

Despite his record in public service, Latino, black and white voters showed little enthusiasm for his Arabic-sounding name, he said.

According to Sinno, the candidate’s manifestos and experience were trumped by identity politics.

Around 3.3 million Muslim Americans make up the electorate and efforts to increase turnout in elections are well under way.

The Arab American Institute and other groups registered voters at mosques during last year’s campaign.

Emerge Action, a political action committee, is raising money to get more Muslims into office. More candidates like Abboud are expected to run for office.

Outside the US

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, a practicing Muslims was the first elected Muslim mayor of any major European city.

During the campaign he defended himself from claims of holding “extremist views” and has since come under Twitter attacks from Trump.

Khan was encouraged by the London’s demographics where an estimated one million Muslims make up about one eighth of a population that is more liberal than elsewhere in Britain, said Sinno.

In European politics, Muslims are generally under-represented.

Muslim Countries

The reverse is true for Christians in some Muslim-majority countries.

In May, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy after Muslim groups organised mass rallies during his tumultuous re-election campaign.

Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian who is popularly known as “Ahok”, was jailed after he criticised his political rivals for using a verse from the Quran against him.

The case was widely viewed as a challenge to Indonesia’s secular institutions.

According to Sinno, the “dynamics are similar” between East and West. Muslim hard-liners in Indonesia provoked public anger to bend democracy to their will, much as Republican-aligned Evangelicals push a pro-Christian agenda in Washington.

Source: Aljazeera
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