NEW YORK – George W. Bush (search) may have received overwhelming support from the Muslim American community in the 2000 presidential election against Al Gore, but it looks like he has lost a lot of ground within the community this year.
"The shift by American Muslims away from the president — and the Republicans — is dramatic, and the truest example of a backlash we've seen. This is virtually unprecedented," John Zogby, president of Zogby International (search), said Tuesday.
Zogby International and Georgetown University's Project MAPS (search) on Tuesday released a survey that showed, despite the fact that a plurality of Muslims supported Bush in 2000, 76 percent now support Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) and only 7 percent support the incumbent.
"The results of this survey are truly astonishing. For American Muslims, there has been a sea-change in political alignment and outlook since Sept. 11," said Zahid Bukhari, director of Project MAPS. "The political realignment in the Muslim community is unprecedented in all of American history."
The poll, which also found that 51 percent said it's a good time to be a Muslim in America, was based on a survey of 1,846 Muslims chosen randomly nationwide, including an over sample of 146 face-to-face interviews of African-American Muslims in mosques. The poll has a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points. Surveys were conducted Aug. 5 through Sept. 15.
"I think there has been a sense of betrayal, if you will, almost because of the way the Muslim community was treated since 9/11," Mukit Hossain, president of the Muslim American Political Action Committee, told FOXNews.com. "The government has effectively, contrary to what it says, targeted the whole community for the acts of a few criminals."
The survey found that 53 percent of American Muslim voters think Muslims should vote as a bloc for a president; 81 percent also indicated that they support the agenda of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections — a national coalition of the 10 largest Muslim organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslim Alliance of North America and Muslim American Society.
The umbrella group has not yet thrown its support behind any one candidate but a formal endorsement is expected this week, according to the group's Web site.
Patriot Act Key to Muslim Vote
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, several moves were made by the U.S. government to vamp up law enforcement efforts to root out would-be terrorists in Americans' midst. The controversial USA Patriot Act (search) was pushed through Congress at top-speed and signed into law by Bush so that, the administration argued, law enforcement officers would have the proper tools they need to act swiftly and effectively against potential terrorists.
But civil liberties groups and many minority groups have argued that the law deprives them of basic protections.
"It's not a Muslim issue, it's an American issue. Americans do not need their civil liberties curtailed," Hossain said. "Once we have institutionalized [it] that sort of proves, no one community is immune ... these sort of laws do not abide by any sort of religious demarcation."
A lack of an endorsement for a candidate by the Muslim-American community may be linked to the fact that no candidate has put forth an acceptable position on the Patriot Act, said CAIR-Ohio Executive Director Jad Humeidan.
"The Muslim organizations are looking for a candidate that will address their concerns and their main concern at this time is the Patriot Act and civil rights," Humeidan said.
Ahmed Nassef, editor-in-chief of MuslimWakeup.com and executive director for the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (search), said it's not so much that Muslim Americans want to see Kerry in the White House as much as they don't want four more years of Bush.
"A lot of it is a reflection of the dissatisfaction of the Bush administration policies, particularly around civil rights and civil liberties issues over the past three years," Nassef told FOXNews.com.
In fact, he said, it doesn't seem like the Kerry-Edwards camp is making many moves at all to reach out to the community, perhaps because it thinks it already has the Muslim vote in its pocket.
"To the credit of the Bush-Cheney campaign, they have hired a couple of people to do outreach in the community … [but] there's been a lot of bridges burned, a lot of bad feelings" among people within the community who were close to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, Nassef said.
The Bush administration last year did increase contacts with Muslim leaders and invited them for briefings with the Department of Justice and the White House Faith-Based Initiatives Office (search).
Hossain said the Kerry-Edwards campaign has made some effort to include the Muslim American community. It has posted on its Web site an action plan entitled, "Building Bridges to the Muslim American Community."
"The Muslim community finds itself in a tough spot. On the one side, you have the Bush people wanting to reach out and policies being a major problem, and the Kerry campaign kind of taking them for granted and not wanting to really establish serious relationships," Nassef said.
"The few people that are out there in the community that do support the president — that's the point they constantly make: at least with the president, he's a known quantity, he wants to reach out to the Muslim community and at least we can talk with him. They say, 'Look, the Kerry campaign has pretty much taken the community for granted yet in the end, they don't have any position that's really different than the president's.'"
Battleground States Rich With Muslim American Voters
Organizations are trying to ensure Muslim Americans get to the polls, especially in the battleground states.
MAPAC is organizing get-out-the-vote activities in four battleground states with huge Muslim populations: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida. The group has already identified over 350,000 Muslim American voters in Ohio, Michigan and Florida to target and soon will have a complete list of Ohio voters to target.
Other groups like CAIR have been holding various town hall-style meetings and other activities in key states like Michigan and Ohio to educate voters on the importance of the Muslim vote this year.
CAIR-Ohio began voter registration drives in May of 2003 and has held voter education forums in mosques, talked about the importance of voter registration, how to vote and other issues. The group has also held candidate forums in Cleveland and Columbus. Over the next few weeks, a massive get-out-the-vote campaign will be launched in which every Muslim American in Ohio will be contacted.
"I think everybody realizes the importance of Ohio — the Muslim community and the non-Muslim community … we all know that every vote can possibly make a difference and it might come down to a handful of events like we saw in Florida in the 2000 elections," Humeidan said.