- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

American Muslims vote mostly Democratic but may be up for grabs in 2000 if Republicans speak to their economic, civil rights, moral or foreign-policy interests, a new poll says.
Nearly all Muslims want government health care, a raised minimum wage and gun control.
About the same number want school vouchers and curbs on abortion and homosexual advocacy making them an unpredictable group straddling both political parties.
"The Muslim community will vote where its interest is," said Abdurahman Alamoudi, secretary of the American Muslim Council, which commissioned the poll by Zogby International.
The poll found that the top issue for American Muslims is protection of civil rights, which they feel are at risk because of their appearance, foreign origins and religious dress.
Yet as a swing vote, they are too "eclectic" to predict and thus must be courted by politicians, pollster John Zogby said at a news conference.
"This is an important religious group that is in the process of defining itself," he said. "This is a pivotal group in the upcoming elections."
Muslim leanings toward the Democrats have been attributed to a normal ethnic-minority pattern, bolstered by Clinton administration tributes to Islam, such as the White House's feast of Eid al-Fitr to end Ramadan in early 1996.
Later that year, six in 10 Muslims voted for President Clinton, while 12 percent backed Republican candidate Bob Dole, according to the Zogby poll, which asked questions of 502 Muslim voters.
Early this year, Mr. Zogby found that more than half of Muslims backed Vice President Al Gore and one-fourth Texas Gov. George W. Bush, with two in 10 undecided. He said he will issue an updated preference poll in October.
Also in October, Muslims for a Better America, a political action committee that "works closely" with the nonprofit American Muslim Council, will endorse candidates.
Though the nation's 6 million Muslims put a high priority on U.S. policy toward Muslim nations, Mr. Alamoudi said this does not undercut domestic loyalties.
"Muslims in the United States will not vote on foreign issues," he said. "We are not an alien community anymore."
He added that press portrayals of Muslim antagonism to the selection of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee were inaccurate.
The American Muslim Council has worked amicably with Mr. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, he said, though "this does not mean we won't have issues we will struggle over."
Most important, he said, is that Mr. Lieberman is "a man of ethics, a man of religion, a minority."
"We want to get what Lieberman got, the door opened to us," he said.
At the news conference, the Muslim representatives said that nine states have significant Muslim swing voters.
They estimated that of 100,000 eligible Muslims voters in California, half would surely turn out.
They also said that Muslims made the difference in the 1996 race of Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, and would do the same in Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid to become a New York senator.
Mr. Zogby said Muslims will be a growing voice in urban affairs, and "will bring the issue of Jerusalem to the table."

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