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Bipartisan Islamophobia Frustrates Muslim Voters
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Bipartisan Islamophobia Frustrates Muslim Voters

Election 2008

Bipartisan Islamophobia Frustrates Muslim Voters
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This is Day to Day. Coming up, for car leasing, things are down. For car mechanics, things are up. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Alex Cohen. First, though, back to presidential politics. Throughout this election season, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not Barack Obama is a Muslim. He's not. Much less attention, however, has been given to the more than two million Muslims expected to vote this year. Anil Mundra reports.

ANIL MUNDRA: The Hassan (ph) family is living the American immigrant dream. Malick (ph) and Simi (ph) came over from Pakistan in 1971. Within a few years, they had established a successful medical practice in Colorado, taken the U.S. citizenship oath, and were building a very American family.

Dr. SIMI HASSAN: I actually ended up meeting my immigration officer, and I said, look, I'm such a good citizen. I had a boy on July 4th.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MUNDRA: They put their kids through elite private schools, and they now live in a slope-side estate in the Colorado Rockies.

Dr. HASSAN: It almost looks to me like - more like a cathedral than a house.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MUNDRA: The walls are lined with valuable artwork and more than a dozen photos of the Hassans with President George W. Bush, smiling, chatting, hugging and kissing.

Dr. HASSAN: In fact, my children complain and they say I have more photos with Bush than I have with my own children, and it's true.

MUNDRA: Next to the photo is a personally signed note from the president wishing the Hassans happy birthday. There was a similar thank-you note from a newly inaugurated Ronald Reagan that helped to solidify Simi's allegiance to the Republican Party. Now, the family's a major donor to the GOP and has even had Senator John McCain at their home for fundraisers.

Dr. HASSAN: I am, obviously, a conservative Republican. I like low taxes or no taxes, and he is definitely, you know, doing that.

MUNDRA: Hassan's son, Ali (ph), the one born on the 4th of July, is now running for state office as a Republican, but all that patriotism didn't stop the Department of Homeland Security from pulling him off of airplanes twice after 9/11. His mother, Simi, like many Muslims, takes exception to some War on Terror methods - the Patriot Act and Guantanamo - but she still basically believes in the effort and thinks that McCain is the best one to lead it. She was convinced of that when she visited the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan to see the frontlines firsthand.

Dr. HASSAN: I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get out of there alive, and basically, I think it's very important that the next president of the United States be someone who can work with our armed forces.

MUNDRA: Many Muslim-Americans went Republican in the 2000 election, but they swung away from Bush in 2004. And this time around, most Muslims say that they'll vote for Obama. Not many segments of America swing that much. Muslims are twice as likely as the rest of Americans to be political independents, according to a Pew poll - independent, but not inert. A study published this year in a Journal of the American Political Science Association shows that, like the Hassans, Muslims in America tend to be educated, affluent and political engaged.

Ms. ZEBA KAHN (Founder and Director, Muslim-Americans for Obama): As Americans, it's our duty to stand up.

MUNDRA: That's Muslim Democratic activist Zeba Kahn. She points to the web address It never got developed because the owner didn't want to tarnish the campaign, but Kahn says that kind of thinking only contributes to Islamophobia.

Ms. KAHN: If you think you're that toxic, then how can you blame anyone else for thinking you're toxic, too? You have to take a stand.

MUNDRA: So, Kahn started the organization, Muslim-Americans for Obama. Now, several prominent imams have endorsed Barack Obama, but Muslims don't seem very preoccupied with specifically religious issues in this election. Like Christian conservatives, most Muslims do want the government to protect morality, but according to Pew, even more want it to be big enough to help the poor. At the Democratic National Convention, superdelegate Kamil Hasan, no relation to Simi, said that Senator Obama appeals to issues that concern Muslims because of their ethnicities and nationalities, rather than their religion.

Mr. KAMIL HASAN (2008 Democratic National Convention Superdelegate, California): And he clearly told me that, if he becomes president, he will end racial profiling. He also very clearly said that he will completely reform the immigration process, one of his highest priorities will be civil rights.

MUNDRA: But according to a recent Zogby poll of Arab-Muslims, the number-one issue isn't civil liberties or the seven-year-long War on Terror. Just like for the rest of America, it's the economy. For NPR News, I'm Anil Mundra in Denver.

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