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The Muslim vote

Campaign 2008 | Had Republicans followed the example of Colin Powell, the GOP could have attracted an additional million votes

Most American Muslims likely will side with Sen. Barack Obama today in voting booths across the country. Since Sept. 11, 2001, much of the Muslim-American community has identified politically with the Democratic Party, believing it more amenable to Muslim concerns than the GOP. Indeed, Democrats have demonstrated greater solidarity with such groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). And in the heat of anti-terrorist fervor, some Republicans have unfairly associated all Muslims with violent extremism.

Still, the GOP might well have carved deep inroads into the bloc of Muslim voters in America had it better articulated its vision and values in Muslim communities. The majority of American Muslims support traditional family values, abhor abortion, and oppose the political agenda of Islamism, namely the establishment of a worldwide caliphate. Those positions reflect potential Republican votes. And Obama's perceived snub in avoiding public appearances with Muslim supporters during the campaign further opened the door for GOP outreach.

Instead, the reluctance of either campaign to define the election for Muslim voters left that job to groups like CAIR and ISNA, both of which hold strong ties to political Islamism. Such prominent organizations represent the sensibilities of far fewer American Muslims than they claim, according to American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder Zuhdi Jasser. Nevertheless, many American Muslims default to following the vocal leadership of these groups in lieu of more mainstream alternatives.

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently proved the extent to which American Muslims are eager to rally behind any public figure willing to appreciate their concerns. Powell denounced the notion that false reports about Obama being Muslim amounted to smears: "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" In response, Muslims nationwide lavished praise on the former Bush administration official now supporting Democratic candidate.

Couldn't John McCain have said as much? That one sentence might have earned him a million votes.

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