The report is comprised of a decade’s worth of data on Muslims’ participation in politics. Since 9/11, Muslims have become increasingly involved in politics, mostly due to the sudden hostility they felt after the attacks. Muslims were constantly being targeted as terrorists and government actions such as the “War on Terror” and the passing of the PATRIOT Act, which perpetuated Muslim stereotypes.
According to Senzai, the 2008 presidential campaign used Islamophobia “as a campaign tactic to attract voters.” Now with the 2012 elections coming up, the same tactic is again being used by, for example, Allen West in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District to garner votes.
In response, many American Muslims became motivated to be more politically active both locally and nationally. Their need to get involved was overpowering, not only to put an end to the discrimination they face every day, but also because they are United States citizens who have an obligation to “invest in the future for themselves and their children.”
This is the prime reason that there has been such an increase in the American Muslim community’s political involvement over the past decade. Engaging American Muslims: Political Trends and Attitudes contains two case studies of American Muslims’ political involvement in two swing states, one of them being our very own Michigan.
As many of us may be aware, Michigan contains the largest population of Muslims and Arab Americans in the country. Michigan is considered a swing state in the 2012 presidential election due to the tie in popularity between Obama and Mitt Romney. Due to the large number of Muslims in Michigan, they hold the ability to greatly impact the presidential elections.
One main issue the Michigan case study explored was the level of participation of the American Muslim community in Michigan. The level of participation was measured on a scale of 0 to 4, with 0 being minimum “political acts” and 4 being maximum “political acts”: “writing a letter to the public official, participated in protest or rally, participated in a community meeting, and donated to a public candidate/campaign.” The data was also broken down by age.
Compared to other minority groups, the American Muslim community was shown to be more politically active. Results of the case study suggest that generally the older the people get, the more involved they become in politics. However, the American Muslim youth showed more political participation in comparison to their peers in other groups. The study also revealed that American Muslim women are more politically active than men.
Education also plays a role in the level of political participation. Generally, the more educated the person is, the more likely they are to be involved in politics. Senzai said in the study that “American Muslims in general tend to be highly educated. Since a higher level of education translates into a higher level of participation, then this community is at a higher level of participation to begin with.”
Muslims, who attend the mosque on a regular basis and are involved in its related activities, are more likely to be politically active. Senzai suggests that “campaigning at local mosques and cultural centers, presidential hopefuls just might find that American Muslims are the voting bloc that can help them win the state.”
The overall data in this case study suggests that, based on the size of their population, American Muslims in Michigan hold the ability to impact election outcomes. Although, American Muslim participation is quite high in Michigan, it can be further improved and Senzai offers a number of recommendations for such improvement.
The recommendations include providing resources to help motivate the community, “tap into” the active groups such as youth and African American Muslims to lead the community, reach out to members of the mosque, and spread awareness on issues most concerning to the community.
Overall, this report by Farid Senzai is extremely informative and helpful for not only the community organizers and political strategists to better understand American Muslim participation, but also to the general public. I would highly recommend everyone to take the time to read this report especially because part of it concerns our Michigan community specifically.