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New Survey: US Muslims More Engaged in Politics

A new survey by a U.S. Islamic civil rights and advocacy group says Muslim voters in the United States are becoming more integrated into American society and engaged in politics. The survey also shows many U.S. Muslims are concerned about the war on terror and the conflict in Iraq.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a poll of 1,000 registered Muslim voters in the United States two weeks before U.S. Congressional elections.

A total of 42 percent of those surveyed said they consider themselves members of the Democratic Party, 17 percent say they are Republicans and 28 percent say they do not belong to any party.

Muslim voters listed education and civil liberties as their most important issues at home, but said the Arab-Israeli conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are major concerns.

More than 80 percent of those polled say terrorist attacks harm American Muslims.

Mohamed Nimer, CAIR's research director, says more than half of those responding say they are afraid the war on terror has become a war on Islam, and nearly nine out of ten oppose the war in Iraq.

"When we asked them if the war in Iraq has been worthwhile for America, only 12 percent agreed or strongly agreed, the rest disagreed or strongly disagreed," said Mr. Nimer. "So that tells you there is a tremendous, tremendous opposition to the Bush administration's policies."

CAIR says the U.S. Muslims polled are religiously diverse. Only 31 percent attend a mosque on a weekly basis, and 27 percent say they seldom or never attend. Most voters say they consider themselves "just Muslims," and avoid distinctions like Sunni or Shi'ite.

Nearly 85 percent say Muslims should emphasize more strongly the values they share with Christians and Jews.

The survey says 89 percent of the Muslims polled vote regularly. About 86 percent say they celebrate the July 4, America's Independence Day, and 64 percent say they fly the U.S. flag on occasion.

The Executive Director of CAIR, Nihad Awad, says while some American Muslims felt alienated following the September 11 , 2001 terrorist attacks, that sentiment appears to be changing.

"The Muslim community is coming back in terms of political involvement, despite what happened to it over the past five years," he noted. "Civil rights have been eroded, relief organizations have been shut down, and there is a climate of fear in the community. Today, these results are telling all of us that there is a comeback, through political engagement, but not passive isolation."

Awad says many American Muslims are closely watching the race in the midwestern state of Minnesota's 5th Congressional District.

If elected, Keith Ellison, the current frontrunner in the race, will become the first Muslim in the U.S. Congress.