Faced with a choice of presidential hopefuls that many Muslims fear are not very sympathetic to their issues, American Muslims are stepping up their activism in hopes to influence the next administration. The efforts stem from the difficulties felt by many Arab and Muslim Americans who have found themselves on the defensive facing unprecedented skepticism and suspicion after September 11th. “The number of people who have become more active and visible o n the national political front has increased dramatically because people have suddenly sensed that they have to be more active in order to … defend themselves as Americans, defend themselves as Arabs and Muslims,” said Shibley Telhami, a Middle East scholar at the University of Maryland and fellow at the Brookings Institution. Many Muslim Democrats are also feeling anger over the casting of Barack Obama as Muslim, painting his association to the religion in a wholly negative light. “So What? He is not a Muslim and he says that. But I am a Muslim and if I was running for office would it be right to hold that against me?” says Inayat Lalani, a Muslim doctor in Texas. Nonetheless, many Muslims see this election as a chance to make their voices and votes count and be heard in what will undoubtedly be a historic election.