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.
French parliamentary elections failed to provide the hoped-for boost in the number of black and Arab lawmakers, with voters returning just one minority candidate from the mainland. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party had 12 minority candidates running for election, mostly in the Paris region, and the opposition Socialists had 20 vying for seats. But the only one to win was George Pau-Langevin, a black lawyer from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, who was elected to a seat in eastern Paris on a Socialist Party ticket. Fifteen other black deputies were elected to the 577-seat National Assembly, all in overseas territories where the majority of the population is black. Although France is home to Europe’s biggest Muslim community, with about five million people, mainly descendants of immigrants from north and sub-Saharan Africa, no candidates of African origin were elected. “We regret that the republic’s diversity will not be represented in the National Assembly, because political parties did not give it enough importance,” the French Council of Muslim Democrats said in a statement Monday.
The French Council of the Islamic Faith (CFCM) is taking water on all sides. Its president, Dalil Boubakeur, is starting the creation of a separate structure, which would be baptized Conf_d_ration of the Moslems of France. In addition to the Mosque of Paris, where Boubakeur is the vice-chancellor, a nebula of associations could would form it, according to Abderrahmane Dahmane, president of the Council of Muslim Democrats of France.