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Survey Shows Drop in Support for Bush Among Muslim Voters - 2004-06-30

Surveys show that four years ago, most Muslim voters in the United States supported President Bush by an overwhelming majority. This year, however, leaders of Islamic groups say most Muslim voters are not likely to vote to re-elect the president and are currently looking for an alternative candidate who shares their views.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, says 78 percent of Muslims who voted in the 2000 presidential election voted for George Bush.

In key states like Florida, where Mr. Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore by just 537 votes, CAIR says Muslims in that state preferred the president over his opponent by 64,000 votes.

According to a recent informal survey released by the council of more than 1000 Muslim voters, the level of support for Mr. Bush has changed dramatically in the period since the president took office.

The poll says about half of those surveyed support the presumed Democratic nominee John Kerry, 26 percent would vote for independent candidate Ralph Nader, while only two percent would support President Bush.

The group's executive director is Nihad Awad.

"Definitely there is a feeling that the Muslim community, Muslim voters are not satisfied with the performance of the administration on domestic issues, including civil rights or foreign policy issues like peace in the Middle East, the war[s] in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

According to the survey 87 percent of the Muslims surveyed say they feel less secure after the war in Iraq, while just nine percent say they feel more secure.

However, 81 percent say they feel free to practice their faith in America.

Many American Muslims opposed the decision to invade Iraq and perceive that President Bush has tilted U.S. foreign policy toward Israel in that country's conflict with the Palestinians.

They are also concerned about the Patriot Act, one of the laws passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that gave law enforcement agencies more powers to arrest and detain suspected terrorists.

During the crackdown that followed the attacks, Muslims charities suspected of funding terrorism where shut down, thousands of immigrants were detained and Arab Americans complained of discrimination.

Hassan Ibrahim of the Muslim Public Affairs Council says Muslim voters have the same values as most other Americans.

"We are looking for on the domestic front civil rights, simple," he said. "On foreign policy we are looking for human rights. These are American values. These are not just American Muslim values. This is what I expect every decent American to stand for."

During a recent forum in Washington on Muslim voting patterns representatives of the major political parties were invited to attend.

The only candidate to participate was independent Ralph Nader, who is actively courting the Muslim vote and was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq.

"Both George W. Bush and John Kerry have said that the United States should stay the course," he noted. "In Washington, D.C. that phrase stay the course means an interminable fumbling, mumbling, grumbling and humbling as the core of foreign policy. The American people are turning against the war in Iraq. They realize they have been lied to and deceived."

Many of the major American Muslim groups have formed a political action committee that plans to endorse a candidate for president.

The groups have launched a voter registration drive with a goal of having 1.5 million Muslims registered to vote by the November election.