Thursday, June 26, 2008

Trading Muslim-Jewish Differences for Votes

With Obama's meeting with AIPAC, McCain's long time support for Israel, and recent snubs against Muslims within the political sphere by the denial for scarved women sitting in one of Obama's campaign rallies, McCain's dismissal of a Muslim American businessman from a campaign committee, and the lack of any of the candidate's solid effort to reach out to Muslims or visit a mosque among their houses of worship visits, Salam Al-Marayati and Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative have recognized that the current Presidential contenders have been looking to gain the support of Jewish Americans at the expense of Muslim Americans.

While Obama's and McCain's political stances are unsurprising given the current climate and culture of our nation, their actions essentially overlook, if not completely ignore, the sentiments of a large constituency. Al-Marayati and Jacobs especially find this problematic, insisting that their "cowardly politics" is an exploitation of Muslim-Jewish differences in pursuit of votes and is damaging to our nation's values and interests. Expounding upon cleavages has historically been damaging to a nation's unity and only gives in to the ideologies espoused by minority, radical groups, rather than supporting the moderate cause these candidates seemingly hope to portray.

Jewish and Muslim voters actually have much more in common than many think, with similar values at stake and shared histories of facing discrimination and exclusion. Additionally, with the recent rise of Muslim American civic engagement and the momentum of the interfaith movement, candidates have more of a reason now than ever to recognize the value of an inclusive campaign, making a greater effort to reach out to diverse constituencies, and encourage pluralism.

Al-Marayati and Jacobs have a hopeful sentiment: "Abraham Lincoln argued against the politics of fear, holding out hope for the 'better angels of our nature.' Our presidential candidates must display such higher thinking in the coming months. Likewise, we -- American Jews and Muslims -- must do the same."


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