In the name of Allah (Almighty God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. In November, most Americans will be voting for Congressional, Gubernorial, and other major federal, state and local political offices. This of course includes American Muslims. Like all Americans, Muslims need to realize the importance of their vote. Many Muslims don't vote at all, and I would caution my brothers and sisters that not voting is one of the worst things we can do for the progress of our community. Some may think that there is something fundamentally wrong with voting in a "non-Muslim" country from a shari'ah perspective. This is of course not true. There is nothing in the Qur'an or the Sunnah to suggest such a thing. In fact the Muslims, led by Ja'far ibn Abu Talib, in the first hijra to Abbassynia, settled in that Christian country, under a just Christian king, and even participated in wars on behalf of the king. They, who were among the best generation of Muslims, didn't seem to have any problem with serving and participating in a non-Muslim nation, in so long as it's leadership was just. In our nation of the United States, we have what is actually in Islamic terms, shurah, or mutual consultation. The people of the United States, voice opinions through votes as to who they feel would best run the country. Whether they be chief executives (president, governor, mayor) or legislators/law makers (congress, state legislatures, city councils).
In voting, it is firstly most important that the voter, Muslim or otherwise, be educated. Not necessarily just educated about "the issues", but primarily educated about the Constitution of the United States, AND the Constitution of the State in which you live. In many cases state constitutions are vastly similar to the US Constitution, but they may very a little from state to state. The Constitution is the most important thing for ANY American citizen to know and understand. The principals laid out in it, in the articles detailing the responsibilities of the three main branches of government, and in the Bill of Rights detailing the basic rights of American citizens, are the backbone, or rather the DNA of our entire nation. Without that structure, America would literally fall into chaos like many other nations around the world who have since adopted Constitutions similar to that of the US. The United States is longest running country in the world to maintain the same form of Government without violent struggles to change it or alter it. The Civil War doesn't count because it wasn't REALLY a Civil War it was a war of Southern Independence that they lost. They weren't fighting to alter the US governmental system. There is a fundamental reason why America has become so successful. It is the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees that the federal government is not the RULER of the people, but rather it exists only to be RULED by the people. The US Congressmen and women are not our superiors or rulers, they are our employees, and the same is true of the President of the United States. If the US was a company, we are the Board of Directors and the Stock holders, so therefore WE are the ones with the ultimate power.
This all being said, we as Muslims, need to be more cautious when exercising that power as American citizens. All citizens tend to focus on issues that directly pertain to them. Gays and lesbians focus on "gay rights". Evangelical Christians focus on moral social issues that pertain to their faith. Recent immigrants and offspring of immigrants tend to focus on immigration issues. This is of course natural, but it is the behavior of a largely uneducated populous. Citizens of course should be concerned about issues that pertain to them, but educated citizens also understands where those issues stand in importance to other issues that face ALL Americans, and sometimes when those issues are obviously less important, we have set aside our personal issues for the greater good. Besides, ultimately if people were educated and voted for whats best for America and not just themselves, it is very likely that those personal issues will be resolved much quicker anyway. For example, immigration reform is a definite issue that affects many Americans, however our present economic situation is an issue that affects ALL Americans, and thus we will never really be able to address the immigration issue until we first address our economic plight including our ever growing national debt which is ultimately the primary source of economic concern. Legal and illegal immigration wont be an issue if the job market completely collapses and there no jobs for ANYONE including immigrants.
Now, having said that, it is becoming quite obvious that the main issue in the minds of soon to be Muslim voters, is the rising tide of "Islamophopia" in America. Generally speaking, the main Islamophobic voices seem to be coming from the political right, while the political left seems more accepting of Muslims within American society. So, consequently, the vast majority of Muslims are most likely going to vote for Democratic candidates in the coming elections. This isn't surprising. However I ask my brothers and sisters to try and think beyond Islamophobia, and think about the bigger issues facing this country. Besides, Islamophobia is only the result of a very uneducated population on the beliefs, tenants, and people of Islam. No politician is ever really going to fix that. Only WE can fix that. Only we can fix that by interacting more with our non-Muslim neighbors and co-workers, and reaching out to other faith communities in common "enjoining of good, and forbidding of evil". Eventually, Islamophobia will subside, as have all such tensions in American history, as mainstream America becomes more familiar and thus more comfortable with their Muslim countrymen and women. If you look at the vast majority of people who hold very Islamophobic ideas, they typically don't personally know any Muslims. Even politically very conservative Americans who have personal connections with Muslims, have much different views; much more accepting views. So I might suggest that voting for candidates based on the issue of Islamophopia is really not the educated thing to do.
Republicans do indeed often support issues that run contrary to basic Muslim (and even Christian) moral values. We seen under President George W. Bush the creation of the Patriot Act, which gives the federal government surveillance authority without warrants on whomever they may deem to be a risk. This is not only immoral but it is fundamentally un-Constitutional. Likewise many Republicans engage in seemingly imperialistic endeavors with such things as "nation building", setting up military installations around the world in various countries, and generally sticking America's nose in the business of other sovereign nations in the name of "protecting our interests". No doubt that these are indeed much more important issues that the issue of Islamophobia in America, and in fact such behaviors of Republican politicians can be directly linked to the ever growing threat of international terrorism.
However, lets then talk about Democrats. Liberal Democrats often also represent fundamentally immoral and un-Constitutional ideas. Democrats typically favor bigger government, and typically have the notion that "we know better what to do with your money than you do". They typically support murder of unborn children through "pro-choice" views which is completely un-Islamic. They favor tax increases, increased funding to welfare programs that only facilitate laziness rather than help people get educated and get back to work. They favor tax systems in which the richer pay more. We may say "well Islamically wealthier people ARE responsible to help those who have less thru zakat". Well that's true, zakat is 2.5% of one's wealth. People making over six figures often pay almost HALF of the income in taxes. That's not zakat, that's robbery. And yes, they, Democrats, also engage in nation building and generally sticking America's nose in the business of other sovereign nations.
We have an ever increasing debt in our nation that WILL eventually destroy us if we are not careful. I would suggest that this is probably the MOST important issue we face. Jobs are hard to come by too, but this is mostly a result of an unsure economy. Employers simply can't afford to take chances to hire new employees when there is such uncertainty about America's economic future. Employers are thus either simply holing-up and not hiring at all or they are outsourcing labor to foreign countries where they can get labor at a fraction of the cost. Such so-called stimulus packages as has been implemented by both Bush and Obama are only giving money that we don't have, to industries in the hopes that they hire. I don't know, to me it seems that the very simple solution is to GIVE PEOPLE THEIR MONEY BACK! Cut taxes to the bare-minimum. I mean I'm talking bare-bones, just enough to pay the utility bills at the Capital building and White House, minimum. If people had more of that money back, particularly business owners who are the one's hiring people, then it just seems to make sense that jobs would start to come back and people would have more confidence in the economy. I just don't see how going into MORE debt by giving money we don't have to construction companies really does that, or passing a health-care bill that basically only requires people to buy health insurance without really addressing the ever growing cost of it, really helps anything. In fact, I tend to think it only hurts us in the long run.
I'm not suggesting that anyone vote Republican or Democrat, I'm just suggesting that we, American Muslims, think BEYOND Islamophobia when we go to the poles in November, to the real issues that face ALL Americans.
...And Allah Knows Best...