Monday, June 13, 2005

Islam, Voting, and Muslim Electibility

Or "If JFK Thought He Had Doubters..."

Back in the pre-JFK days, the conventional wisdom said an Roman Catholic/Irish Catholic could not get elected to the highest office in the land even if he got everyone laid. OK...I added the laid part. But the sentiment still stands: Catholics were deemed unelectible for the office of the President.

The logic at the time was that Catholics were so beholden to the Pope that we'd become the United States of the Vatican. All decisions would be made based on the Catholic faith in general and the coaching of the Pope specifically.

Of course, history shows us that JFK couldn't keep his dick in his pants long enough to ponder "What Would Jesus Do" let alone hit the Pope up for advice. Though, it shouldn't have taken JFK as an example to disprove the concept; sadly, it should have already been public knowledge that anyone who can be in a position to get elected to our highest office is self-centered and ego-driven. The fatal flaw in democracy within a republic, IMHO, is networking and reciprocal politics (you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours...with the occasional knife being jabbed into said back). Since that flaw was in place well before JFK developed a Boston accent, the concerns of papal influence never should have made its way into common political thought.

Now, I don't know if you could so easily dismiss my theory:

Muslims are very nearly unelectable for any national office...and will remain so for decades.

This is of great importance to me because I happen to be a muslim. Not your garden variety, either: I converted to Islam after being raised in a (not-so-practicing) Irish Catholic family. Being born to that Irish Catholic family, I look more like Larry Bird than Magic Johnson. Lest you miss the point due to ignorance of American sport history, I'm a muslim who happens to be a caucasoid.

Can a muslim win a local election? Sure. It is much easier to have a higher signal-to-noise ratio in such an election (meaning a candidate's message and meaning can play more prominently than just their choice of religion).

Can a muslim win a state election? It is possible...but not probable. The noise dilutes the message a little more here...which hurts their chances of combatting the ignorance about Islam or if/how it might effect how the candidate does their job in office.

A national election? Give me a break. There are so many things already working against any Tom, Dick, or Harry that wants to win an election that throwing in the fact that the opposition will say the muslim prays to the same god as Osama. Nevermind that the opposition likely prays to the same god as Osama, seeing as how God and Yahweh are just some of the many names of Allah. Nevermind that Christians pray to the same god as David Koresh, by the logic many of them apply in drawing comparisons between your average muslim and Bin Laden.

Let's be plain: much of the American public is ignorant of issues that face nation and too apathetic to undertake any research that would cure them of their ignorance, uncover the facts, and lead them to form an educated opinion.

Given that this is a FACT...a harrowing fact, but nonetheless indisputable can a muslim anticipate they will have the opportunity to both dispell the anti-Islam prejudices they will face from voters AND get their actual political message out?

Since I was young, I wanted to serve this country in federal elected office. OK...I wanted to be the President...I was a kid, sue me. In 1984, I was 9 years old. You know what I did in late October/November? I made pro-Mondale signs with my cousin. Part of a school project, you ask? No...somehow, I just wanted to do it and roped my cousin into it. I don't believe we finished our signs until the Thursday after the election. Since no one had the heart to point out it was too late and Mondale already had the snot beaten out of him, we still got to post the signs in our front yards.

When I got to high school, I was a member of our Model Congress and Model UN extracurricular programs. I went after school to work with others who had an interest in the political process. I travelled the country for my passion. This was the only school activity that really fired me up.

Around the same time, I converted to Islam. Shortly after my conversion, I was told that muslims can't be lawyers or politicians because it would be haram (sinful) to participate in a non-Islamic government. I was crushed. I moved my focus on to going to school for Political Science and then getting certified to teach American History to high school students. The thought was that maybe helping to get the next generation of American kids to be passionate about their country and about helping their fellow Americans lead better lifes would be the closest I could get to a life in politics. I said...I was crushed. My inspiration gone, I took a full ride scholarship I had received to Montclair State University and pissed it away. Don't get me wrong; their were many other bad decisions and negatives going on in my life that contributed to it as well, but I didn't have the fire burning in me to push through it all due to the loss of my dream.

I've since learned that whether or not participation in non-Islamic government is haram is a matter still up for debate, with many more seeming to think that it is halal (good) or at least not haram than the opposite. For a period of time, I got excited again. I felt the fire in my belly...the drive to do something. It is a fire that has come and gone.

First I worried that I didn't really fit the profile of a successful politician. Many of the elected officials I've met in my life were veterans or successful business owners. I regretfully missed my opportunity to enlist in the American military, as the only branch I can still join might mislead me on my options and wind up sticking a gun in my hand to have me shoot other muslims (not a desirable position for me). I really don't have a business that I have a desire to start, which would certainly make it difficult to be successful at one.

But no sooner as I put those concerns aside have I been faced with the realization that, as a white muslim who converted from Catholicism/Christianity, I'm about as electable as a convicted pedophile in this country.

Wait...that's a bit of unintended irony there...the Catholic priest pedophilia epidemic didn't cross my mind until AFTER I typed that, I swear.

My brother thinks I have a defeatist attitude. That I'm just killing my dreams before they have a chance to live. That I need to adopt the whole "shoot for the moon and, if you miss, at least you're amongst the stars" philosophy.

But how do you muster the effort and courage to shoot for the moon if you're not certain that your rocket won't explode on the launch pad?

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