In 2008, the Arab and Muslim American populations strongly supported Barack Obama because they believed he would understand their needs. Much has transpired on the international stage over the past four years. In addition to domestic issues, these communities observed Obama’s reaction to the Arab Spring and the continuing cry for freedom in Syria and other nations. To discuss projections for how the Arab and Muslim American voting bloc will lean, I spoke with Hind Makki, a blogger who focuses on immigration, race, Islam and pop culture in the US and Western Europe.
Reem Nasr (RN): Do you feel like the Muslim/Arab American community has been more politically active in this election?
There is less enthusiasm and mobilization than 4 years ago, though there is definitely still a concerted GOTV effort in Arab and Muslim communities. I've noticed a stronger push to focus on key local campaigns, such as in the 8th Congressional District in Illinois, where Muslims are mobilizing against Tea Party sympathizer Joe Walsh, in favor of Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
RN: What are the issues that are most important to them?
In terms of foreign policy, America's drone war and inaction in Syria are huge, but it seems that domestic issues are more more important to Arab American and Muslim voters. People care about the economy, jobs, health care, the environment, women's health rights - and are voting those values.
RN: Muslim and Arab Americans strongly supported Obama in '08. Do you suppose that support will continue despite how some issues have been handled, specifically foreign policy?
Yes. Most middle class Muslims & Arabs believe that a Romney presidency will negatively affect their pocketbook and access to health care. They may not agree with everything Obama has passed (NDAA as example), but believe Romney will be worse. I've also heard many folks say that they believe Obama, if given 4 more years, will rule as the candidate they voted for in '08
RN: Will the situation in Syria and America's inaction in comparison with Libya affect voting patterns?
No. Many Arab Americans and Muslims don't trust that Romney & his foreign policy team will enact different policies than Bush, considering many of his advisers are from Bush's team.
RN: Why does the Muslim/Arab American vote count, especially in swing states?
American Muslims are a curious voting group; traditionally, they have skewed conservative on most social values (including hot button issues such as abortion and gay marriage), moderate on the economy and health care, and left of center on civil liberties and foreign policy. American Muslims are concentrated in many politically important states, such as red Texas, blue California, and swing states like Ohio and Florida. They could be a deciding factor in many local and state elections, if they go out and vote.