By Irfan Rydhan for Patheos
There have been a lot of discussions going on lately online among Americans, including American Muslims on whether to vote in this year’s presidential elections. Many people, especially Muslims feel that President Obama has disappointed them, thus they will not vote to help re-elect him for a second term. Still others believe that it is no use for us to vote because either party will not help us American Muslims out and a few people also think that it is Haram (unlawful in Islam) to even vote in the first place.
To those Muslims who say that voting is Haram, I will just respond by saying that you are Stupid. Period.
As an American Muslim, I was happy to vote for Obama in 2008, because I wanted a change from the failed policies of G.W. Bush, like most everyone else. I was also happy to hear that Obama, who had a Pakistani roommate, grew up in Indonesia and had Muslims in his family, although he himself is a Christian, was much more aware and knowledgeable about different cultures around the world – which was (and still is) needed for the leadership of America in this very small world we live in today. I was also happy to hear that Obama would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, close Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and would try to work for a two state solution between Israel and Palestine.
Of course Obama won the election against John McCain with a safe margin (although some states were very tight and every vote was needed to win in those battleground states – just like this year) and was elected to President of United States of America in November of 2008. This was a historic election, since Obama is the first African-American to be elected as President. This was one of the moments I was most proud to be an American, since no other western country has elected a minority race or ethnic group to the highest position of government before this.
Now 4 years later, many people, especially American Muslims are disappointed that President Obama was not able to keep all his promises. To those people, I will give you some reasons why this happened and also why we should give President Obama a second term in order to continue a lot of the good work he has done to help our country get back on its feet and move in the right direction.
Before President Obama took office in 2009, the economy was already losing 800,000 jobs a month. Now we have seen steady job growth for 30 consecutive months. Obama also saved the US Auto Industry, while his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, wanted to let it die. Although this was a very unpopular move to give federal money help the Auto Industry, Obama stuck with it and in turn saved 1 million Auto jobs in the US and all the government loans made to US Auto Companies were paid back ahead of time.
President Obama decided to take on one of the major problems in the US: The American Healthcare System. The last time a US President was able to successfully pass major healthcare reform was in 1965 with President Johnson’s introduction of Medicare and Medicaid. Since then, most political experts consider major Healthcare reform as political suicide, but President Obama still decided to take it head on and was able to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). It is not perfect by any means, but definitely a step in the right direction for America, where healthcare costs are some of the highest in the Western world. With “Obamacare,” health insurance companies cannot charge women more than men for the same coverage. Parents can keep their children on their family health plans until the age of 26. Seniors on Medicare will have free preventive services and also lower prescription costs. Romney said he will repeal the Affordable Care Act, and most likely allow Health Insurance companies to go back to running wild and abusing people who have pre-existing conditions (such as being a woman)!
President Obama and the Democrats, although far from perfect, are an inclusive party. Anyone who watched the conventions of the Democrats and Republicans could see with their own eyes, the GOP convention attendees were monolithic and not very diverse. The Democratic convention on the other hand, was the exact opposite. It featured people of all colors, backgrounds, and religions – including American Muslims. Unfortunately, the Republican party, over the past 12 years have moved to the extreme right and have now openly attacked American Muslims who serve in the US Military, Congress and other government positions. People such as Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman and others who are deeply involved with the current direction of the GOP, are self proclaimed Islamophobes who flaunt their Anti-Muslim hysteria. President Obama on the other hand appointed several American Muslims to his administration including Farah Pandith, the first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States and Rashad Hussain, who serves as the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group representing 57 nations.
President Obama delivered on a campaign promise to address Muslims around the world from a Muslim capital within the first few months of him being elected by speaking at Cairo University in June 2009. Also during Obama’s first trip overseas as President, he also spoke to the Turkish parliament in April of 2009. I don’t remember the last time a US President travelled to and spoke publicly in two Muslim majority countries within their first
term, but it was a major change in US policy from the G.W. Bush era of shoot first and talk later.
President Obama ended the War in Iraq and also started to draw down troops in Afghanistan. By 2014 a majority of US troops will have left Afghanistan. He also ended the use of water boarding by US military prisons. President Obama has decimated Al-Qaida by taking out their leader Usama bin Laden – one of the worst terrorists of the 21st century. Some Muslims complain that Bin Laden should have been captured alive and tried in court. Let me respond this way: Usama bin Laden admitted to destroying the Twin Towers in NY on Sept 11th, 2001 and was the major cause of all the problems we Muslims now have here in the US (and other Western countries). We Muslims should be happy that Bin Laden is dead and that Al Qaida and other extremists are weakened around the world, especially in Pakistan, which has suffered a lot due to their extremism.
In terms of Pakistan, yes there are Drone strikes which no one, including myself likes, because they hurt and kill innocent people in the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province, but do you think that you will have a better chance to end these drone attacks with Obama as President or Romney? This is a current US Military Tactic, which will not stop if Romney is elected as President. In fact, US foreign policy, under Romney will become much worse for Muslims, because he (Romney) has already called “Jerusalem” the capital of Israel (which is Not current US policy) and he will bring the same Anti-Muslim foreign policy team, which G.W. Bush had, back into the White House. They are already pushing for war with Iran, a trade war with China and causing problems with Russia! Now, do we as a country want to move backwards or forward?
President Obama successfully fought to prevent federal student loan interest rates from doubling for more than 7 million students, and capped federal student loan repayments at 10% of income. He also doubled funding for Pell Grants and established a college tax credit. As someone who started his college career at a local community college, I am happy to hear that President Obama is also investing in community colleges and career training programs. Plus, he doesn’t want to cut funding from PBS and fire “Big Bird” like Romney does!
President Obama renewed Unemployment Benefits twice. As someone who was unemployed for almost one full year, this definitely helped me and my family out. Not only that, a program called “Keep Your Home California” which was created because of the Obama Administration’s efforts to help people who lost their jobs to be able to keep their homes. This also directly helped me and my family out by helping us pay our mortgage bill while I was unemployed for 9 months.
To those who say that President Obama did not keep all his promises, such as not closing Gitmo. Let me remind them that Obama was blocked by the Republicans in Congress who did not allow the prison to be closed and the detainees to be tried in American courts (This is a reminder to everyone to vote for their local congressman as well, because the President cannot do anything if Congress is against him). See this article about the House blocking the closure of Gitmo from the Washington Post here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/8/congress-deals-death-blow-gitmo-closure/?page=all
If we as American Muslims really want change in the way that we are seen and perceived in our own country, then we need to step up and get involved in the US political system. We really have no right to complain, because we haven’t really been involved in the affairs of our country’s domestic policies (we have No influence at all in US foreign policy at this point) and only became “active” for the past 12 years. We always complain about how Israel can “get away with anything” and the US supports Israel no matter what. Let me explain briefly why this is. The American Jewish community has been involved in the affairs of the United States for well over 100 years (the ZOA was established in 1897). Not only that, but American Jews have gone into every major field of influence (Media, Politics, Law, Education, etc.) and became leaders in their respective fields. This is not something to condemn, but to applaud. They spread their influence and diversified their skills. We American Muslims on the other hand are disproportionally involved in Medicine, Computer Science and Engineering, and to top it off, we do not donate any money to political campaigns or lobbyists like other minority groups do. Then we complain because we voted once or twice, forwarded some emails and donated $20 for Obama’s campaign and then expect the whole world to change in our favor!
Sorry it doesn’t work like that my friends. US Foreign policy has been developed over decades and policies that were put in place over 70 years ago are still affecting decisions made today. To learn more about this, please read the book: “Obama and the Middle East” which I reviewed here: (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/almihrab/2012/09/before-you-blame-obama-for-the-problems-in-the-middle-east-read-this-book/)
In conclusion, if you want to give up on Obama because you feel that he disappointed you, then don’t vote for Obama. But keep in mind that by not voting or voting for a Third Party Candidate for President instead is basically giving your vote to Romney. Mitt will not only take your free vote, but he will not do anything at all to help American Muslims out. Romney’s foreign policy team is made up of Islamophobes, Pro-Military Extremists and War Hawks who are just waiting to attack Iran (by the way the government of Israel wants Romney to win as well because they felt Obama was too tough on them). But if you care about what is going to happen to this country that we have all either been born into or have come to for a better life, then we should not only vote, but also vote for the only candidate who can relate to us as a minority and has already listened to many of our concerns as American Muslims and has followed through on many of these items. He ended water-boarding torture which was initiated by G.W. Bush and Company. He ended the War in Iraq.
He is about to bring back the troops home from Afghanistan. He has helped to bring America back on its feet from an economic stimulus package which has helped save the US Auto Industry and bring continued job growth for the past 30 months. He has helped America take a step in the right direction by creating the Affordable Care Act which will help cover 30 million Americans, mostly children, who would not have had health insurance before. That candidate is President Barack Obama. Now go out and vote for him on November 6th.