U.S. Muslims Support Obama, But Still Seek Change

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While President Obama is in Cairo trying to win support from Muslims abroad, here at home he already has it: More than 80 percent of U.S. Muslims say they approve of the job he's doing.

When American Muslims speak about Obama, one word comes up over and over again: hope.

It's the key word for many, like Jawad Hussain, a Pakistani medical student at Georgetown University. He said he feels a personal connection to the president: "You know, the fact that his middle name is Hussein, which is my own last name."

"During the inauguration," Hussain says, "saying his middle name, when he was taking the oath, was uplifting to me as a Muslim."

But Hussain cautioned, "I don't know if that's going to play out into anything policy-wise or concrete."

Nationally, 85 percent of Muslims approve of Obama, according to a recent Gallup Poll — a higher approval rating than among any other religious group. Coincidentally, Hussain thinks he was polled by Gallup. He got a call about a month back asking for his opinion of the president.

"I said I approved," he said. "The country could have only gone up. I think his approval rating is inflated that way."

He added, "Any change would have been good — even if it was McCain, I think."

"It really doesn't take a lot at this point to win over Muslim-Americans," said Dalia Mogahed, director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and a member of the president's advisory council on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.

She added, "Muslim-American expectations of what political leaders will do for them or with them is not very high because of the past eight years, where they were completely shut out of the White House. They had no access to the president."

Obama has broad support among Muslims now, even though he had a rough start during the campaign. Some Muslims accused him of distancing himself from their community.

Malik Mujahid, founder of Muslim Democrats, said he thinks there's a difference between rhetoric and policy.

"If the question is asked by Gallup Poll about whether Muslims have been appointed in the position of significance in the Obama administration, answer[s] might be different," said the suburban Chicagoan.

Mujahid praised the president, but he's still hoping — yes, there's that word again — for more. He wants the president to reach out to the Muslim-American community.

"I think that engagement will give a far bigger message to the Muslim world that Muslims are not only in their countries, but they're found right here in America. And they're part of American society," Mujahid said.

As one imam bluntly put it, "It's great that the president is speaking from mosques overseas, but it would be even nicer if he spoke from a mosque in America."



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