The Crescent Report

January 3, 2008

MAS Freedom National Coordinator Meets with Candidates in Iowa Before Caucuses

Filed under: American-Politics — Tags: , , — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 4:40 pm

MAS Freedom (MASF), as the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society (MAS), has been preparing throughout 2007 for the 2008 elections – focusing, together with the rest of the nation, largely on Iowa Historically, Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation Presidential Caucus status has set a prophetic trend where the chosen Republican or Democratic candidates have gone on to win the presidential office. Throughout the years, the challenge has been to entice Iowans to brave the winter snow and biting cold to participate in their precinct’s caucus. In 2003, out of a statewide population of nearly three million, only slightly more than 125,000 Iowans actually caucused. Of these, less than 150 were from Iowa’s Islamic community, despite the state’s estimated 80,000 Muslims.

In the 2008 Presidential cycle, MAS Freedom is hoping to change this trend. Over the last eighteen months, MAS Freedom has strived to increase election participation of both Muslims and other minorities in Iowa by holding Voting is Power (VIP) events to register voters and inform them of their rights and responsibilities.

MAS Freedom stresses that participation is vital toward making sure voices in the Muslim community are heard, our votes counted and our policies enacted. “One does not need to be a citizen to become involved,” stated MAS Freedom’s National Coordinator, Miriam Amer. “Anyone can volunteer with a candidate, and those citizens who are not old enough to vote, can still caucus if they will be 18 on or before November 4, 2008.”

MAS Freedom’s goal is to secure and coordinate as many precinct captains as possible, with the goal of making sure that all who can, will get to their precinct on the evening of January 3 to participate.

“We are excited about Muslim participation in the caucus process, particularly in Iowa. Although MAS Freedom’s participation has been non-partisan, we believe that the education we provide to the Muslim community, not only in Iowa , but across the nation, establishes the fact that the entire American Muslim community has a place in the political primary process,” stated MAS Freedom Executive Director, Mahdi Bray.

On Wednesday evening, January 2, along with two other national organizations, MAS Freedom will hold caucus training at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids to help familiarize participants with the process. “We hope that when someone comes out of this training, they will feel confident enough in what they have learned, to go to their precinct and take part in a historic event that can tip the balance of power in this country,” Amer stated. “If we can get even one-half of one percent of the Muslims in this state participate in the caucus-with some even serving as precinct captains-we can insure that the proposed planks will become adopted at the state conventions, and help to shape US policy in the future.”

In the 2004 Presidential cycle, Amer was an Iowa Democratic delegate to the Linn County Democratic Convention, as well as to Iowa’s Second Congressional District and State Conventions, missing the nomination to the Democratic National Convention by only a few votes.

Since March 2007, Amer has been working across party lines, meeting with both Republican and Democratic candidates to discuss their policies and introduce them to concerns American Muslims hold regarding issues such as US policies in the Middle East, US foreign policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo, torture, extraordinary rendition, terrorism, racial and religious profiling, the closing of Islamic charities, civil and human rights, and US government support of foreign dictators. Amer also discussed domestic concerns, including pending legislation, the candidates’ voting records, rescinding the Military Commissions Act and the Patriot Act, the Farm Bill, immigration, and issues concerning national health and education.

Democratic candidates Senators Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and Hillary Clinton, Cong. Dennis Kucinich, former Sen. John Edwards, and Gov. Bill Richardson, have all given MAS Freedom the opportunity for one-on-one meetings where they have expressed their solidarity with ending the wars, torture and rendition, and stated their proposed policies for immigration reform.

Additionally, Richardson, Kucinich, Obama and Biden have all stated that they will enact and enforce legislation against racial and religious profiling, and provide for “charity without fear” where Muslims will be able to fulfill their obligations of giving Zakat, without fear, through establishment of a national donations clearing house.

While many of the Democratic candidates have been open and welcoming to Amer’s inquiries and the position papers presented to them, the majority of Republican candidates have refused to meet with her or avoided her lines of questioning. While attending Iowa’s Republican Straw Poll in Ames last summer, Amer was able to meet with only three of the Republican candidates. Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, and Tom Tancredo (the later two have since dropped out) outlined their positions on immigration, terrorism, the wars, etc. 

With 44 percent of Iowa’s Republicans identifying themselves as Evangelical Christians, conservatives constitute a broad vocal chunk of the GOP political base in Iowa. Overall, the GOP candidates have basically ignored the immigrant and Muslim vote this time around, opting instead to focus on the Conservative Christian vote.

On the evening of January 3, although there can only be one winner on election day in November 2008, all of the campaigns will benefit by having Muslims caucusing for them. Ultimately, we all will benefit from that participation.


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