At a news conference on Monday (Oct. 23), the Political Action Committee of the American Muslim Political Coordination Council cited remarks Bush made during the second presidential debate as the main basis for its support for his presidential bid.
The council approved of Bush's denouncement of racial profiling and the use of "secret evidence" by federal prosecutors. "There is other forms of racial profiling that goes on in America," Bush said during his debate with Vice President Al Gore. "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we've got to do something about that."
Those words showed that Bush "has elevated the level of his concern about civil rights of Arab-Americans in the United States," said Yahya Basha, president of the American Muslim Council, one of four member organizations of the Political Coordination Council.
The other organizations that comprise the council are the American Muslim Alliance, the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Bush was also credited with being more "accessible" than his rival. "It is ironic that the Clinton administration has set a precedent above all others in appointing Muslims to top policy positions," said Salam Al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "We're kind of perplexed about why Al Gore has not been as accessible and spoken out officially on racial profiling."
The group denied that its endorsement of Bush was influenced by the religion of Democratic vice presidential contender Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew.
"Since the days of Truman, Washington's support for Israel has been one-sided and unbalanced," Al-Marayati said. "Blind support for Israel is a problem with every politician -- it has nothing to do with whether a person is Jewish or not. For us, Lieberman is not the issue."
The council's decision to endorse Bush is a signal to lawmakers that the voice of Muslim voters cannot be ignored, Al-Marayati said, and issues important to what the group said are the nation's 6 million Muslims must be addressed.
"Our objective is to get out the Muslim vote and show politicians that we can make a difference," he said. "They need to know it's time they started addressing our issues."