The rest of the night, as my newborn daughter slept, I followed the election results very closely. I even had the election results paged to me every hour. I was on pins and needles throughout the entire Florida recount nightmare, and I prayed that every hanging chad hung for Dubya. I watched the Supreme Court deliver its ruling giving the Presidency to George W. Bush, and I was absolutely ecstatic. I liked what candidate Bush had to say about taxes. I was encouraged when I heard him say that he wanted America to have a "gentler" foreign policy, and that he was not interested in nation-building. I was thrilled to hear him denounce the racial profiling of Arab-Americans. I was not alone that year. Most American Muslims voted for Bush, especially in Florida. In fact, some have argued that it was the Muslim vote in Florida that helped get Bush into the White House.
Almost four years have passed since those fateful days, and the happiness I felt has turned to horror. Once again the time approaches when I will make a choice about the man I want to be the Leader of the Free World. If the Lord lets me live to see November 2, 2004, one thing is certain: I will not vote for George W. Bush again.
My high hopes for Bush's presidency have been utterly destroyed, especially after the attacks of September 11, 2001. After recovering from the sheer terror I felt on that sunny yet dark morning, I witnessed with equal shock the government detention of over 1,000 Muslim men in one fell swoop. Then came "special registration," which required men from Arab and Muslim countries to make themselves known to the INS. Many were later deported for minute immigration violations. Did Dubya not speak out against racial profiling? In the months afterward, the USA Patriot Act passed Congress in an atmosphere of national anxiety.
I have no problem with most of the Patriot Act. The law contains a number of very common sense provisions crucial to waging an effective war against terrorists who stop at nothing to maim and murder innocent Americans. Certain unprecedented provisions of the legislation, however, horrified me and most other American Muslims. It allows law-enforcement agents to search the homes of individuals without their knowledge or consent--so-called "sneak and peek" searches--and authorizes the FBI to search library and bookstore records to find out what we've been reading.
More frightening is the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act, or Patriot Act II. Under this "new and improved" USA Patriot Act, the government would no longer be required to disclose the identity of anyone, even an American citizen, detained in connection with a terror investigation until criminal charges are filed. Section 501 says Americans, even native-born citizens like me, may be stripped of all the rights of United States citizenship if they provide support to any organization the government deems "terrorist." Even before passage of the Patriot Act II , two American citizens were declared "enemy combatants" by the president and held incommunicado for more than two years, without counsel or an opportunity to challenge the president's contention. This was not the America in which I was raised.
Yet this respect toward Islam was very short-lived. Soon, Islam was being viciously attacked by prominent evangelical Christian leaders-leaders very close to the Bush Administration-without so much as a peep of objection from the president. Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, called Islam a "wicked, violent religion." In his book "The Name," Franklin went even further: "Islam-unlike Christianity-has among its basic teachings a deep intolerance for those who follow other faiths." In an interview with Beliefnet, he said: "I believe the Qur'an teaches violence, not peace." Rev. Jerry Vines, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the Prophet Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile." Rev. Jerry Falwell also called the Prophet a "terrorist."
The president did distance himself from these comments-after all the damage had already been done-but his statement was weak at best. I would have expected that he-a man of deep faith -would have come out more forcefully against such vicious attacks. This angered and hurt me deeply.
In foreign affairs, the president's national security strategy of pre-emptive war--the so-called Bush Doctrine--has only led to disaster. The intelligence which the president used to take this country into war was suspect at best, and none of the justifications he used to attack Iraq have been borne out. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and-despite repeated assertions of the Bush Administration to the contrary-there is no evidence Iraq and Al Qaeda had any significant relationship. The war has made America less, not more, secure, and recent warnings of an imminent terrorist attack make this painfully obvious.
Furthermore, the president's unilateral decisions have alienated long-time allies and has made America a pariah around the world. When I was in Mecca during the Hajj, every delegation of pilgrims proudly flew its national flag except the American delegation. We did not dare fly Old Glory, and I resent how America's image and reputation has become so severely damaged, to a point almost beyond repair.
The bone I have to pick with the President is very large indeed. I gave him my trust in 2000, and he has severely betrayed me. I write this not without immense sadness, because I am a registered Republican. I lament how far the national Republican Party has strayed away from its ideals.
Most American Muslims and Arab-Americans feel the same way I do. A Zogby International poll of Arab-American voters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida showed 51 percent supported Kerry, while 24 percent supported Bush, down from 30 percent in April. Sixty-nine percent said Bush did not deserve to be re-elected, including 30 percent who identified themselves as Republican. A survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations showed only 2 percent of Muslims surveyed said they would vote for Bush today, while 54 percent said they would vote for Kerry. President Bush has let American Muslims down, and on November 2, through their voices in the ballot box, they will let him know just how disappointed in him they really are.