Most Muslims backing Kerry

Published: Sunday, July 11 2004 12:00 a.m. MDT

Shahid Bahadur of South Jordan was in the minority among Muslims four years ago — most voted for President Bush, he didn't.

This November, however, Bahadur could be voting with the majority of Muslims when he casts his ballot.

A new survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations suggests many Muslim voters are shifting their support from Bush to Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

"Kerry seems to be more in line with what people want, what I want in a president," said Bahadur, 29. "I'm hoping he just leads this country in a better path. Too much emphasis has been on the war."

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said exit polls in 2000 showed 55 percent of Muslims voted for Bush. However, only 2 percent of those Muslims surveyed in June said they'd vote for Bush today.

CAIR, a nonprofit organization established to promote an accurate image of Islam and Muslims in America, sent the questionnaire to subscribers of its e-mail list and received 1,161 responses from 43 states.

Hooper said while the survey is "admittedly unscientific," it is a "pretty good indication of trends within the Muslim community."

Kerry got the most support — 54 percent; 26 percent favored Ralph Nader, and 14 percent were undecided.

To understand why Muslims may not back Bush this November, Hooper said it's important to look at the issues. The No. 1 domestic issue in the survey was civil rights, followed by the economy and health care. The top international issue was U.S. Middle East policy.

"Muslims are upset with the president's policy on civil rights, and unequal treatment of Palestinians," he said.

Of the Muslims surveyed, 86 percent said they felt less secure after the invasion of Iraq, and only 11 percent said they were better off now than they were four years ago. However, 81 percent said they felt free to practice their religion.

Matthew Burbank, associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, said this November's election will be a "referendum on George Bush."

"I'd not be surprised if people said I supported George Bush, I'm not going to do it again," Burbank said, referring to post-Sept. 11 administration policies. "On the other hand, one thing I think George Bush has done quite well, is . . . saying, 'This is not a war on Muslims.' . . . Given the public sentiment of the time, he could have not done that."

Iqbal Hossain, chairman of Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City, said a central factor this November will be "how Muslim interests are protected in this country and in the world."

He said Muslims are, in general, frustrated about Bush's Middle East policy — from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the war in Iraq. On the domestic level, he said Muslims are concerned about administration policies such as the Patriot Act and detaining citizens without due process.

"One of the biggest hopes of Muslims in 2000, I think, was that President Bush would help with the Israel-Palestinian issue," he said. "This administration has given unqualified support to Israel."

"I think the majority of Muslims have been frustrated definitely with President Bush, and frustrated to some extent with John Kerry, because they haven't heard anything from him in terms of resolving the situation in Israel and Palestine," he said.


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com

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