Muslim Group Endorses Kerry

Although some polls show Muslim Americans leaning in John Kerry's (search) favor, not everyone in the community is convinced the Massachusetts senator is necessarily the best one for the job.

The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (search) — political action committee on Thursday called for a protest vote and issued a "qualified endorsement" of Kerry. AMT is an umbrella organization representing 10 other groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, American Muslim Alliance, Islamic Society of North America and other groups.

The call to vote against "the progressive order of the Bush administration" isn't exactly hailing Kerry as the right man for the White House. The organization, however, says President Bush's (search) administration has been "extremely insensitive to the civil liberties and human rights of American Muslims, Arabs and South Asians.

"While the Kerry campaign has critiqued several egregious misdeeds of the Bush administration, so far the Kerry campaign has failed to affirm its support for due process, equal justice and other constitutional norms," AMT said in a statement on its Web site. "We are disappointed that the Kerry campaign has shied away from expressing unambiguous support for principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution (search) which prohibit use of ex-post facto laws, secret proceedings and use of secret evidence."

The group also noted that it is "mindful of our many disagreements with Senator Kerry on domestic and international issues, including the war in Iraq."

Many representatives from AMT's member groups were not available for comment, either because of the monthlong annual Ramadan holiday or because they were out of the office.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (search), a Los Angeles-based policy organization, broke from the AMT this week, saying neither Bush nor Kerry deserved its support.

The group's move likely will be closely watched by many of the 7 million Muslim Americans living in the United States. This year's battleground states of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have large Muslim populations.

Zogby International (search) poll released Tuesday showed that 53 percent of American Muslim voters think Muslims should vote as a bloc for a president while 81 percent also indicated that they support the agenda of the AMT. That poll also showed that, despite the fact that a plurality of Muslims supported Bush in 2000, 76 percent now support Kerry and only 7 percent support the incumbent.

But not everyone agrees that most Muslim Americans want Kerry in the White House.

Akir Saeed Khan, a staffer for the College Republican National Committee, told Bush personally during a campaign event in North Carolina in April that he wanted to help him with the Muslim vote.

"President Bush has over 50 Muslims currently working inside the White House, which is more than any other president. He is also the first sitting president to visit a mosque," Khan said.

Some Muslim leaders say they just want a public sign of Kerry's support for their community, such as visiting a mosque. That sign has not yet come. After Sept. 11, Bush visited a mosque and declared Islam a peaceful religion.

Khan said that he likes to remind Muslim Americans that Kerry is pro-choice, voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (search) in 1996, voted to authorize the war in Iraq and originally supported the Patriot Act. Many Muslim Americans take issue with these stances.

"I feel that this is the wrong message they are sending," Khan said of AMT's endorsement of Kerry. "The current administration ... has done more for American Muslims than any other president. Their logic of endorsing him does not make sense."

Before AMT's qualified endorsement Thursday, CAIR-Ohio Executive Director Jad Humeidan and other representatives from Muslim-American groups told that 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 controversial Patriot Act.

"American Muslims are living in a fantasy world if they think Senator Kerry, if elected president, will loosen the law on the Patriot Act," Khan said. "American Muslims should continue to work with President Bush and his administration on the Patriot Act so we may prevent another terrorist attack from happening in the United States."

Ahmed Nassef, editor in chief of and executive director for the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (search), told earlier this week that many in the Muslim community are between a rock and a hard place this year.

"I think kind of deep down inside they want to support the Bush-Cheney camp but they know they can't because it would be kind of the end of the road for them in terms of credibility at the grassroots level, the rank and file in the community," Nassef said.

But "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," he continued. "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.'"