DENVER (FinalCall.com) – American Muslims from around the country met with Joshua Dubois, director of religious affairs for the Barack Obama presidential campaign, during the Democratic National Convention, to address concerns that the Muslim community was being marginalized by the campaign.
“It’s not a smear to be called a Muslim. We have Muslim staffers all over the country,” said Mr. DuBois at a luncheon sponsored by the American Muslim Democratic Caucus.
“You will have a seat at the table,” he said, “The issues today are too critical for us not to work together.”
Those remarks were a precursor to an Aug. 26 meeting with caucus representatives.
“The meeting went very well. It was a successful event. We asked questions about the perception that the Obama campaign was marginalizing the Muslim voice in this campaign. We were assured that that was not the case. We were satisfied with his answers,” said Dr. Inayat Lalani, chief organizer of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus, which debuted at the convention with a press conference and luncheon.
Muslims have received a double dose of taint during the campaign since Sen. Obama has been accused of being a Muslim. He is a Christian.
Many in attendance at events felt Sen. Obama’s stance on Islam and Muslims had been muddied by the media and the group planned a meeting with Patrick Gaspard, the political director for the Obama campaign.
“If Barack said there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim this needs to get out to the Muslim community. It alienates them to not have this information. The organizers here said that Barack Obama went to a mosque. Who knows this? We have to send this message to the Muslim community,” said Abdul Akbar Muhammad, who writes the syndicated Africa and the World column and hosts a radio program.
“This is an important first step. Muslims have been marginalized. It’s partly our fault for not being active in politics,” he said.
Muslim delegates came to Denver to make their voices heard and heed Sen. Obama’s call for inclusion in his presidential campaign.
“We’ve been working very hard in the Democratic party to get the Muslim community involved. The Democrats know about the issues we are really concerned with. We’ve had a good relationship with them for the last 10 years. We’re very hopeful to put before them more of our issues and concerns,” Aftab Siddiqui, a caucus organizer, explained to The Final Call.
“Look at the Muslim community. Our concerns are the same as other Americans, civil rights, loss of jobs, health care and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. ” said Mr. Siddiqui.
Much of what organizers conveyed during the press conference was to quell fears that Muslims are different and Islam is violent.
“We are as American as apple pie,” Dr. Lalani. “Sen. Obama stands for everything that we believe in. We believe President Obama will be a president for all Americans. That is good enough for us.”
“Somehow we are not well known by Americans. They’ve been misled by negative news reports and the happenings around the world that make people think Muslims are violent, intolerant or want to impose their religion on others. All of this is false.”
The caucus was composed of 46 delegates from coast to coast, who were Black, foreign born, and second generation immigrants.
Anthony Muhammad, a convention delegate from D.C., talked about the importance of the caucus. “It’s part of making history, to have influence over things happening in your community. Islam gives you a focus, principles and standards that are universal. There are principles imbedded in Islam that allow you to move out in the larger community and implement them,” he said.
The push to make Muslims an integral part of the Obama campaign also includes the group Muslim-Americans for Obama. The group’s website, http://www.mafo2008.com/, reads, “We support Barack Obama because, among other reasons, he rejects the politics of fear, challenging our nation to embrace its collective identity, where each American has a stake in the success and well being of every American. We have a duty as Muslims and Americans to organize and vote.”
Congress has two Muslim representatives. Andre Carson from Indiana and Keith Ellison from Minnesota who took his oath on a Holy Qur’an owned by Thomas Jefferson and was the first Muslim elected to Congress.
“There’s nothing un-American about Islam. The best ideals of America are the best ideals of Islam. Allah knows the great work that you do,” Rep. Ellison said.
“This is an honorable day, the first time Muslims have gotten together as a group at the DNC. For the Muslim community in America, who has so much to offer America, this moment is filled with promise and challenge,” he said.
Rep. Carson told the media, “It’s truly an honor to represent Muslims in public office. So much has been said about Muslims, we need to be active in political life. Where are the Muslim mayors, school board members and city council members? We need Muslim women in office with hijab and without. We need to have a presence on the grassroots level. It’s a great time to be a Muslim, time to stand firm and be proud of being a Muslim.”