Miami: Muslims have the
potential to play a pivotal role in the 2012 election as
Islamophobia and immigration issues galvanize the minority group
into a voting bloc, according to a forum Sunday at the University
of Central Florida.
Florida has an estimated 124,000 registered Muslim voters, and
Orange and Osceola counties rank high in registered Muslim voters,
said Daniel Hummel, a research associate with the Institute for
Social Policy and Understanding, based in Washington, D.C. In the
swing state of Florida, Muslims helped elect George Bush in 2000
and Barack Obama in 2008.
“If they vote as a block, they can have a huge influence on the
election,” Hummel said.
Yet the Muslims in Florida are anything but unified. They belong
to many different nationalities, races, and countries.
“Some come from countries where getting involved with government
means you disappear the next day,” Hummel said.
On the other hand, high-profile prejudice against Muslims —
ranging from Qur’an-burring Gainesville pastor Terry Jones to
Congressman Allen West, who condemned Islam as a threat to America
— tends to unite a people who perceive themselves as under attack,
said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.
And the anti-immigration fervor, while aimed largely at Hispanics,
also has alienated Muslims from the Republican Party, said Imran
Siddiqui, a board member of Emerge USA, a Muslim organization
based in South Florida.
A study by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found
that Muslims in Florida are concerned about the same thing as most
Americans. Forty-eight percent say jobs and the economy are the
most important issues, followed by education and health care.
But in times of turmoil, upheaval and uncertainty, many in America
look for somebody to blame. These days, it can be Muslims.
“What should concern us,” said Siddiqui, “is how the attacks have
gone from the fringe to the mainstream in a very short time.”