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US Elections 2016: Growing number of Muslims desert the Republican Party

In this race, where every vote counts, an overwhelming number of Muslims are leaning towards the Democratic Party

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FILE - Young Muslims speak out during a campaign rally in Wichita, Kansas, March 5, 2016. Image Source: VOA

Sept, 08, 2016: Once seen as a “natural” Republican constituency, Muslim-Americans are increasingly leaning Democratic, and they are expected to vote in record numbers for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election in November.

From overwhelmingly voting for George W. Bush in the 2000 election to backing Clinton in the current cycle, the Muslim shift in political allegiance has been precipitous, leading some critics to lament a lost Republican opportunity to keep an increasingly influential voting bloc.

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According to surveys conducted after the election, more than 70 percent of Muslims voted for Bush, and most of the 50,000 Muslim votes in Florida went to the Republican candidate. Bush won the election after a prolonged recount of the vote in Florida, a state he won by a mere 537 votes, and a dispute that ultimately was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial body.

FILE - President Barack Obama meets with members of Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Feb. 3, 2016.
FILE – President Barack Obama meets with members of Muslim-American community at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Feb. 3, 2016. Source VOA

To Muslim-Americans and many conservatives alike, Bush’s victory was evidence not only of growing Muslim political weight but also of a “natural” affinity between Muslims and Republicans.

‘Socially and economically conservative’

Suhail Khan, a prominent Muslim-American Republican and former board member of the American Conservative Union, wrote that “Muslim-Americans are, by and large, both socially and economically conservative,” and therefore a natural Republican constituency.

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Many Muslim-Americans do share conservative Republican values of supporting strong families and traditional marriage, and opposing abortion. And Khan noted that a quarter of U.S. Muslims are small-business owners who favor Republican policies on lower taxes.

But the reason most Muslim-Americans voted for Bush in 2000 may have had less to do with shared values than a belief that Bush, in reaching out to Muslims and handling the historically divisive Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would follow in the moderate footsteps of his father, former president George H. W. Bush, whom they also supported in the 1992 election, according to John Esposito, a professor at Georgetown University and author of “The Future of Islam.”

If there was a high-water mark in the love affair between Muslim-Americans and the Republican Party, it was the 2000 election. In 2004, more than 90 percent of Muslim-Americans voted for John Kerry; in 2008 and 2014, Muslims voted for Barack Obama, by 89 percent and 85 percent, respectively, according to several estimates.

Islamophobia fuels switch

Why did so many Muslims desert the Republican Party after the 2000 election?

FILE - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, looks on as one of his supporter reaches for a sign that reads "Islamophobia is not the answer," at a rally in Oklahoma City, Feb. 26, 2016.
FILE – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, looks on as one of his supporter reaches for a sign that reads “Islamophobia is not the answer,” at a rally in Oklahoma City, Feb. 26, 2016. Source: VOA

The most common answer given by Muslim advocates is a resurgence in Islamophobia, and a U.S. foreign policy perceived as detrimental to Muslim interests around the world. While Bush sought to reassure Muslims after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that the United States was not at war with Islam, Republican policies and rhetoric have since reinforced a perception among many Muslims that the party is a hotbed of Islamophobia.

“Sadly, the Republican Party over the past 15 years has become the political epicenter of Islamophobia, introducing anti-Muslim policy proposals or anti-foreigner laws in at least 10 state legislatures,” said Robert McCaw of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “This has really driven the Muslim vote out of the Republican Party.”

But Islamophobia and foreign policy alone don’t explain the Muslim exodus toward the Democratic Party. A more compelling reason may lie in history. As Georgetown’s Esposito explains, most Muslim-Americans, like other immigrants, have long identified with the Democratic Party’s pro-immigration and social welfare policies; the Republican Party has appealed to only a small, mostly affluent segment of the community.

The Muslim-American population, estimated at around 3.5 million, is a heterogeneous lot. While African-Americans, historically a Democratic constituency, make up about one-third of the community, most Muslims in America are immigrants, hailing from dozens of countries, many with conservative backgrounds.

But among second- and third-generation Muslims coming of age in America, polls show their social attitudes have moderated in recent years. Many members of this rapidly growing community not only lean Democratic, but also embrace progressive views that are at odds with Republican orthodoxy.

Switching policies and parties

In the 2011 Pew survey, 70 percent of Muslims in America described themselves as Democrats or leaning Democratic, while 11 percent said they were Republicans or leaning Republican. Those numbers have held relatively steady since then. McCaw of CAIR cited another poll that showed 55 percent of Muslim-Americans describe themselves as moderate, while 26 percent identify as liberal.

FILE - A Muslim woman holds a poster during a protest against Donald Trump in New York, Dec. 20, 2015.
FILE – A Muslim woman holds a poster during a protest against Donald Trump in New York, Dec. 20, 2015. Source: VOA

Many analysts thought conservative Muslims and Republicans shared common views on issues such as homosexuality and the role of government. The 2011 Pew survey showed that Muslim-Americans have grown “considerably more accepting of homosexuality” since 2007. On the role of government, the survey found that 68 percent of Muslim-Americans preferred a bigger government providing more services over a smaller government providing fewer services.

“So not only do they switch parties and now are voting Democratic, but they’re also adopting some of the policies and positions and ethics” of the Democratic Party, McCaw said. “Traditionally, a number of immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia are more socially conservative, and there was a place for them in the Republican Party. But I think as people grow and develop in America, [they] definitely change their views and preferences over time; and more importantly, their children grow up here and they might be voting different than their parents previously had.”

Esposito says that Republicans and Muslims were not really natural allies to begin with, and that culturally and politically most Muslims feel more at home in the Democratic Party. He points to polls showing that far more Republicans than Democrats hold a negative view of Islam and Muslims.

At home among Democrats

The 2011 Pew Research Center found that that 15 percent of Muslims see the Republican Party as friendly toward their community, compared to 48 percent who see it as unfriendly. By contrast, 46 percent of Muslims found the Democratic Party friendly toward them, and only 7 percent said it was unfriendly.

Sajid Tarar, a longtime Muslim-American activist now campaigning for Republican Donald Trump, disputes the notion that most Muslims feel at home in the Democratic Party. He says the party “hardly recognizes us as a minority.”

But surveys show that the Muslim-American flight from the Republican Party has only deepened amid anti-Muslim rhetoric by Republican candidates, most notably Trump, who enraged many Muslims by saying “Islam hates us” and proposing to ban all Muslims from entering the country, a position he has since softened.

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton participates in a roundtable with Muslim community leaders at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, March 24, 2016.
FILE – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton participates in a roundtable with Muslim community leaders at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, March 24, 2016. Image Source: VOA

Historically, Muslim voter turnout has been low in the U.S., but with surveys showing Islamophobia is a top issue, CAIR and other members of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations this year launched a “One America Campaign.” They hope to register 1 million new voters, an increase of nearly 300,000 since the 2012 presidential election.

Power of Muslim vote

Muslim turnout is expected to be high this year, Esposito says, with as much as 80 percent of the vote likely to go to Clinton.

The Muslim-American vote remains relatively small, but with large Muslim communities in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Muslim activists say their vote is likely to prove critical in tipping tight races in key swing states.

Meanwhile, both presidential campaigns say they see the Muslim-American vote as important.

The Trump campaign, perhaps recognizing the tepid level of support the Republican candidate enjoys among Muslim voters, appears far less focused on the community. Tarar says his American Muslims for Trump has about 1,000 followers, and he remains hopeful the candidate will visit a mosque soon.

“It is a very tight race and every vote counts,” said Tarar, who traveled with Trump earlier in the campaign and later spoke at the Republican National Convention. “Right now, they’re working on the African-American voters and issues.”

Clinton’s campaign says the Democratic candidate has met with Muslim community leaders over the past year and the campaign is working to mobilize Muslim voters in several key swing states.

“We’re not taking any vote for granted,” said Zara Rahim, a campaign spokeswoman on Muslim-American issues. (VOA)

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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Supports Releasing Russia-linked Advertisements

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Facebook chief
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, delivers a speech during the visit of a start-up companies gathering at Paris' Station F, in Paris. voa

Washington, October 12: Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday she “absolutely” supports the public release of all advertisements produced by a Russia-linked organization during the 2016 presidential election.

Sandberg said the company is “working on transparency” following the revelation last month that a group with alleged ties to the Russian government ran $100,000 worth of ads on Facebook promoting “divisive” causes like Black Lives Matter.

“Things happened on our platform that shouldn’t have happened,” she said during the interview with Axios’s Mike Allen.

Later Thursday, Facebook Chief Operating Officer is set to meet with Congressional investigators who are looking into what role the advertisements which began running in 2015 and continued through this year may have played in the 2016 presidential election.

The $100,000 worth of ads represent a very small fraction of the total $2.3 billion spent by, and on behalf of, President Donald Trump and losing-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaigns during the election.

Multiple congressional investigations have been launched, seeking to determine what effect alleged Russian meddling may have played in the election.

In addition, Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is conducting a criminal probe, including whether President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the election season. Trump has denied working with the Russians.

Facebook had previously agreed to disclose the thousands of Facebook ads to congress. Sandberg said Thursday she thinks “it’s important that [the investigators] get the whole picture and explain that to the American people.”

In response to the Russian ad buys, Facebook Chief Operating Officer said that company is hiring 4,000 new employees to oversee ads and content. She said the company is also using “machine learning and automation” to target fake accounts that spread fake news.

She defined fake news as “things that are false hoaxes” and said Facebook is working to stamp out the bad information by teaming up with third-party fact checkers and warning users before they share news deemed fake by Facebook.

She said it is important to be cautious when going after fake news because “a lot of what we allow on Facebook is people expressing themselves” and “when you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people.”

“We don’t check the information posted on Facebook before people post it, and I don’t think people should want us to,” she said.

Hundreds of fake accounts were used to distribute the Russia-linked advertisements, Sandberg said. But had those ads been posted by legitimate users, “we would have let them run,” she said.(VOA)

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Myanmar violence: In Rakhine state of Myanmar houses have burned and around 400 people have died

The United Nations says at least 38,000 people have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh, most of them are Rohingya

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A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border
A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. VOA
  • Thousands of people have fled their villages and sought shelter in temples, schools, and mosques in other Rakhine town
  • Volunteers were struggling to find food for the displaced
  • Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be migrants from Bangladesh and not one of the country’s many ethnic minority groups

Rakhine, Myanmar, September 3, 2017:  About 400 people have died in violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state over the past week, military officials say, almost all of them Muslim insurgents.

A military Facebook page reported the numbers, saying 370 were insurgents, and 29 killed were either police or civilians.

Members of the minority Rohingya Muslim community, however, have reported attacks on their villages that left scores dead and forced thousands to flee.

Human Rights Watch said Saturday that satellite imagery recorded Thursday in the Rohingya Muslim village of Chein Khar Li in Rathedaung township shows the destruction of 700 buildings. The rights group says 99 percent of the village was destroyed and the damage signatures are consistent with fire, including the presence of large burn scars and destroyed tree cover.

“Yet this is only one of 17 sites that we’ve located where burnings have taken place,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.

The United Nations says at least 38,000 people have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh, most of them Rohingya. Community leaders in Bangladesh have told VOA that some Hindus, also a minority in Myanmar, have crossed the border.

Robertson said the U.N.’s Fact Finding Mission should get the “full cooperation” of Myanmar’s government “to fulfill their mandate to assess human rights abuses in Rakhine State and explore ways to end attacks and ensure accountability.”

HRW said Rohingya refugees who have recently fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh told the agency that Myanmar soldiers and police had burned down their homes and carried out armed attacks on villagers. The agency said many of the Rohingya refugees had “recent bullet and shrapnel wounds.”

Sources in Bangladesh have told VOA’s Bangla service that as many as 60,000 have crossed the border in recent days.

Struggling to feed displaced

In addition, thousands of people have fled their villages and sought shelter in temples, schools, and mosques in other Rakhine towns.

The deputy chairman of the Emergency Relief Committee, Khin Win, told VOA’s Burmese service by phone that 800 people are sheltering at two Buddhist monasteries in the town of Maungdaw.

“Security in Maungdaw is not even safe and some fled to Min Byar, Sittwe and Yathetaung. No one can guarantee their safety. People fleeing homes increasing and there are a few left in villages. There is only one police outpost in a village and police do not have the capability to protect villagers,” he said.

Volunteers were struggling to find food for the displaced, he said.

“We need drinking water, meat, fish, and medicines,” he said. The group has gotten rice and donations from other communities but little from the government.

“Government aid agency provided a few bags of beans and instant noodles. Three boxes of instant noodles for 500 people is not effective. Just a superficial help,” he said.

Also Read: Myanmar Woman May Khine Oo Shares Her Story of Human Trafficking to Prevent other Women from falling into the same trap

Hiding in forest

Hla Tun, a Rohingya from the village of Alae-Than-Kyaw, told the Burmese service that Muslims cannot rely on security forces for protection or help.

“Our villages are located near the rugged coastal area from south of Maungdaw to Alae-Than-Kyaw village. Almost every village has been burned down and people have nowhere to stay. People are hiding in the forest. In order to avoid authorities they can move only during night time to flee to Bangladesh,” Hla Tun said.

The violence began a week ago when a group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army launched a series of attacks on police posts in Rakhine, which is home to most of the Rohingya minority group. The police responded with attacks on villages, to hunt down the insurgents.

Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be migrants from Bangladesh and not one of the country’s many ethnic minority groups. Rohingya are denied citizenship, even if they can show their families have been in the country for generations.

Sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims has flared periodically for more than a decade. Until last month’s attacks, the worst violence was last October, when insurgents attacked several police posts, sparking a military crackdown that sent thousands fleeing to Bangladesh.

The Myanmar government has denied allegations of abuse against the Rohingya and has limited access to Rakhine to journalists and other outsiders; but, the country’s ambassador to the United Nations says the government plans to implement the recommendations of a U.N. commission to improve conditions and end the violence. (VOA)

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Islamic Yoga: Amalgamation of Yoga and Quranic Recitation by Muslim Women of Vadodara

A yoga session was organized by Tadbeer Foundation in which around 52 Muslim women participated

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Islamic Yoga, Amalgamation of yoga and Quranic recitation by Muslim Women
Islamic Yoga, Amalgamation of yoga and Quranic recitation by Muslim Women. Pixabay
  • Yoga is an age-old technique practiced since thousands of years and it is not a legacy of any one religion
  • Through Islamic yoga, we are trying to blend the ancient practice with Islamic chanting
  • I am a very good believer of Islam but there is a myth that only Hindus can practice yoga

Vadodara, Gujarat, August 22, 2017: Does only one religion have an exclusive right over yoga? Is yoga to be practiced by Hindu’s only?  It’s is a long going debate if practicing yoga is permitted in Islam religion or not as it originated from being a form of Hindu worship. Different people of Muslim faith have contrasting opinions on it. Don’t worry!  A city-based foundation called Tadbeer Foundation has come up with an uncommon way to spread yoga amongst Muslims. They have mixed yoga with Quranic recitation.

A special yoga session was organized by Tadbeer Foundation in which was attended by around 52 Muslim Women on August 20. The session was held at Taiyyebi Hall which is on Ajwa Road, Vadodara.

According to TNN report, Naasheta Bhaisaheb of the Tadbeer Foundation said, “Generally, women from our community stay away from doing yoga believing that it belongs to a particular faith. But yoga is an age-old technique practiced since thousands of years and it is not a legacy of any one religion. Through Islamic yoga, we are trying to blend the ancient practice with Islamic chanting,”

She added that the Islamic yoga is a completely a new concept altogether and in this practice, Quranic recitation gets blended along with various yogic posture in which Muslim Women try to enhance the physical benefits of yoga by adding a spiritual touch with recitation.

“The yoga session was specially designed by our spiritual leader Saiyyedna Haatim Zakiyuddin Saheb and my husband Dr. Zulqarnain Bhaisaheb, a homeopathy doctor,” said Bhaisaheb.

ALSO READ: Yogatomics Training and Wellness Centre in Stonington, USA Uses Healing Sound to Bring Twist in Traditional Yoga Practices

For this particular session, an international yoga expert – Shabanaben Lalawala came especially from Mumbai. He targeted common problems which women often suffer from like osteoarthritis of knees, back pain, frozen shoulders and hip pain among other diseases. Yoga can help in providing relief from diseases like these to an extent and can also prevent women from having such diseases if they practice yoga on a regular basis.

She added, “In this session, we focused on 5 asanas. From next session onwards, we will be focusing on problems related to diabetes, thyroid and so on.”

ALSO READ: These 7 Yoga Practices Can Help You to Ease Your Wandering Mind and Enhance Concentration

A local Muslim woman got herself a private yoga practitioner to help her with yoga postures. Fatema Lokhandwala, a 43-year-old woman, who holds a master’s degree in medical microbiology, said “I am a very good believer of Islam religion but there is a myth that only Hindus can practice yoga. Since last 4 years, I have been practicing yoga for which I got a private yoga practitioner. But the Islamic yoga that we did on Sunday was meant for physical, mental as well as spiritual upliftment and added more to what I was practicing so far,” mentions TNN report.

Shahina Chasmawalla, a 41-year-old lady, a resident of Vasna Road said “I am practicing yoga since last 5 years but Islamic yoga was a totally new concept for me. There is a taboo because of which some Muslim women don’t practice yoga. Anybody can practice yoga for its health benefits.”


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