Only a few election cycles ago, the trend in the Muslim American community (at least the 2/3rds of it that come from an immigrant background) was to vote Republican. The argument was that the combination of socially conservative personal values and free-market economic views (many immigrants came to the US as entrepreneurs) made Muslims and the GOP, at least in the eyes of the first generation immigrants, a natural fit. This movement culminated in the ill-conceived idea to create a Muslim “block vote” that would back George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. About 80% of the Muslim electorate went with the prevailing logic, and nearly 50,000 of them cast their vote for Bush in Florida alone, arguably making our community responsible for many of the ills to befall it in the coming 8 years. (On behalf of my community, I apologize to America for this profound error in judgement.)
Fast forward four years, and Muslim voters backpedaled considerably, voting nearly 90% with Bush’s Democratic rival John Kerry and creating what is most likely the greatest demographic shift in US political history. This, of course, begs the questions – where will Muslim voter sensibilities eventually settle along the political spectrum?
Seeing that our community is in a state of poltiical flux, I see a great opportunity to make the case that Muslims belong firmly in the progressive camp in US politics. First of all, Muslims now more than ever need to cast their lot with the group of people most likely to respect their uniqueness and resist the prevailing urge to restrict their rights (or worse, lump them in with the “evil-doers”). Second, Muslims seeking to serve society through political involvement will find it easier to participate in progressive organizations and the Democratic Party (the vast majority of Muslims holding elected office are Democrats) rather than their right-leaning equivalents.
And Muslims need not leave their personal moral views at the door when entering the progressive camp. Unlike conservative tendencies to make society abide by a particular moral code, progressives (despite a scattered few who are anti-religion in general) seek not to impose their morality on others but to allow people to live their lives as they see fit. That’s not just good for Muslim Americans – it’s good for everyone.