American Muslims Relieved, Hopeful at Obama's Election

November 6, 2008

Author: Nicole Neroulias

Source: Religion News Service

After months of balancing their support for the presidential candidate with concerns that their allegiance could do more harm than good, millions of relieved American Muslims cheered the election of the son of a Muslim immigrant whose middle name is Hussein.

Record numbers of U.S. Muslims had cast their votes, boosted by registration drives held by the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which targeted swing-state residents. MAS Freedom estimates that about 70,000 Muslims voted in Virginia, a state that had not backed a Democratic president in more than 40 years, and which Barack Obama won by fewer than 160,000 votes.

"We used Friday prayer, religious holidays, gatherings and conventions to register Muslims," said Imam Mahdi Bray, MAS Freedom executive director. "In Virginia (on Election Day), we had 30 taxi drivers who did nothing but take people to the polls all day."

The Muslim community has mobilized greatly since 2000, when most of its voters -- with the exception of African American Muslims -- had supported George W. Bush. Ultimately dismayed by the president's post-9/11 policies, they began swinging Democratic in 2004, a shift that MAS Freedom was able to build on for Obama, Bray added.

Early estimates indicate that between 70 and 90 percent of Muslim voters supported Obama this year; official numbers won't be ready until January or February, said Ahmed Younis, an analyst with the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.