We asked a few people to let us know if they are voting this election, and the response was overwhelming. In the spirit of embracing diversity among the opinions of the Muslim Community in Atlanta on why they are voting, their responses are shown here in their entirety. Thanks to Shahrukh Arif (Community Leader, Software Engineer), Rizwana Khan (Public Health Professional, Biostatistician), Aisha Saeed (Lawyer, Teacher, Author), Hadayai Majeed (Social Worker), Zohra Kamal (Community Leader, Technical Analyst), Muhamed L. S (MSA President), Faraz Iqbal (Community Leader, Project Management), Mulham Shbeib (Community Activist, Finance Professional) and Shaheen Bharde (Community Leader) for contributing to this article.
1. Life and death battles that are being fought by people (in Iraq, Egypt) who wish so dearly to possess what we have already been given. I watch an African-American and a Mormon battle it out for the presidency of this country, I can't help but think that all things are possible, even for us - Rizwana Khan:
Ever since I became old enough to vote, I have done so unfailingly, casting my first ballot for president at eighteen years of age. I have always taken the act of voting seriously, as if it were a privilege rather than simply a right. I cannot see it any other way, when I know that there are so many who struggled and risked so much in order for us to have the ability to choose our leaders and ultimately govern ourselves. As a muslim American, I also believe that we must use whatever tools we have at our disposal to make our voices heard so that we can have a positive impact in society at large and help to secure the future for muslims in this country.
Today it seems that there are many in our country who may take the right to vote for granted or feel indifferent about it, especially with the current political climate. I say that we must look to this country's relatively recent past and the disenfranchisement of whole groups of people, such as African Americans or women, and think about why they struggled so much for a seemingly basic right. We should look at the events that have been unfolding in the Middle East as of late, and the life and death battles that are being fought by people who wish so dearly to possess what we have already been given. When I read about Iraqis risking life and limb to go cast a ballot, or see an image of an Egyptian woman proudly holding up her ink-stained finger like a badge of honor, it is a reminder that the right to vote and all it signifies is precious and should not be taken lightly.
Of course voting as an isolated act cannot accomplish much. We muslims as a whole must be involved in the entire political process of this country in order to affect change and make our voices heard. Rather than simply complaining about society's ills or the injustices of our foreign policy, we should be active participants in this process so that our concerns can be taken seriously and addressed insha'Allah. It is great to see that so many muslims in recent generations have taken a greater role in the political arena, and I believe that this will not only be beneficial for us but also for the greater good. We have seen how politicians cater themselves to certain religious and ethnic groups, and if we want that same kind of influence then we must continue with our efforts of engagement and of course we must vote.
This will be the fifth presidential election in which I cast a ballot insha'Allah. The candidate choices we have may not be perfect, but we still have a say over our future, and that is something we should not take for granted. Over the years, the voice of American muslims has grown stronger, and as I watch an African-American and a Mormon battle it out for the presidency of this country, I can't help but think that all things are possible, even for us.
2. Voting for the 'lesser of the two evils' is the lazy way to go. If you feel betrayed, and if you are tired of the useless bantering, go out in force and vote for third party candidates. - Shahrukh Arif:
Yes I will be voting. Voting is an important part of the US gov't system and if Muslims want our voices to be heard and be taken seriously then it's imperative that we vote. What most people don't think about is that there are many other items on the ballot outside of the presidential elections. The president is not the end all be all of American politics. Congress has a large impact on the laws and bills that get passed and it is important for us to make sure that we intelligently pick those individuals so that we can ensure the candidates with our best interests in mind are voted in. Items on the ballot come down to the local level as well. A few examples being city officials, judges, sheriffs, and even amendments to the GA constitution. If we do not go out and vote on these issues as well, we can protest as much as want but no politician will ever take us seriously because they know that they can get away with whatever they want without any repercussions.
When it comes to the presidential election, I feel that more and more people are starting to have the "my vote doesn't count" attitude. In my opinion, this stems from Muslims, at least in GA, voting for Bush in 2000 and Obama in 2004 and now they feel like they have been betrayed. This election, just like last election, I will proudly go in and vote for a third party candidate. When people find this out, they get even more adamant about my vote not counting. Their reasoning is that regardless of what they vote for GA electoral college will vote Republican regardless. So if they do vote, they end up voting for the "lesser of two evils". I feel that this is the lazy way to go about voting and that we, as a community, should do more research into third party candidates so that we can influence real change and get a unique perspective on issues.
For example, Ross Perot proved in '92 that a third party candidate can have a significant impact on American politics when his popularity ratings went from 7% to 19% after the national debates. In fact, because of this, the media changed the rules of the debates such that a third party candidate can only be included in the national debates if they have a 15% rating in the pre-debate opinion polls. This means that the third party candidates out there right now are literally fighting for the opportunity to be heard by the American public. On top of that, if a third party candidate gets 5% of the vote they are eligible for federal grants and can receive more money for their campaigns. So if everyone really is tired of hearing the useless bantering in the national debates and in the presidential election in general then we need to go out in force and vote for third party candidates so we can get some actual reform in the system.
3. I will vote because I envision a future that offers education, a possibility to go further and do better in life. - Anonymous
Why vote in the upcoming US elections? If you have been to the polls lately, you will be that early voting has become more popular in this election than in any prior election. Lines are already wrapped around the corner for voters taking advantage of an early voting opportunity. Why are things so different with this election? One could argue that voting costs - in time, effort, gas, with no tangible payoff except perhaps some vague sense of accomplishment in having done your "civic duty." For some that's all it takes and yet for others it is worth so much more. Some see voting as a right and others see it as a responsibility. Whatever gets your voting mojo going, get out there and do it! As I sit and ponder the ultimate cost that was paid in life, effort, time, human investment and sacrifice in order to have the right to vote, I think that many have already paid a far greater cost so that many of us could vote. It really goes beyond a sense of civic duty.
There is so much at stake and to sit by on the sidelines why the opportunity to have your voice heard passes you buy could be seen as irresponsible and unenlightened. Although many have the right to vote, they still will not vote and will cite a laundry list of religious, socioeconomic, or other reasons not to vote. 'I'm not going to vote because it's not going to make a difference for me, my family, my religion, or my lot in life.' To that I say, 'Except thru voting, how else can a citizen have a say in his or her government? Through voting, one can exercise that right and responsibility. Some will vote republican or democratic or independent, while some will just sit at home and watch the opportunity for a real and positive future pass them by.
It's not about voting along party lines or voting for the party that your family traditionally votes for. Now more than ever before, it's important to informed citizens on what is going on and how it affects you and your family. The decision to vote in this election should be decided based on bigger issues than race, whether or not you agree with 100% of a candidate's plan or how a candidate performed in a debate. We may not agree 100% with a candidate and still vote because we agree when it comes down to what is important to us and we see that that candidate is on the same page when it comes to what is of important to us.
Let's ask ourselves what is the past history of the candidate that I'm giving my vote to? Does the candidate reflect my sense of values and envision a future that I want myself and my family to be a part of? Do I know where the candidate stands on the issues that are important to me? Know the facts and not get pulled into the rising tide. I will vote because I envision a future that offers education, a possibility to go further and do better in life. When we know better, we should do better…and we will.
Equally interesting opinions from other community members
Aisha Saeed - (Author, Lawyer, Mom)
I am planning to vote though I'm not as eager and excited about it as I was in 2008 especially when I know that Georgia is not a hotly contested state. Practically speaking, my vote will not effect the election. But I am still voting. I am voting because I believe it is my responsibility as an American-Muslim. The hispanic vote, the soccer mom vote, etc. matters because there is a vote to be gained and power to be obtained through garnering that vote. As Muslims we need to show that we also participate in the political process and that we too are voices to listen to. If we don't speak, why should anyone pause to listen?
I don't love Obama or Romney, but I'm voting to make the statement: I am Muslim. I am American. I am a voter. Me, and my faith, matters.
From Hadayai Majeed (representing herself and no one else) - (social worker)
I have already voted. I feel strongly anything or anyone that has the power no matter how temporary to impact our lives should have our attention as Muslims. Yes it will make a difference. Even if it gets to the point that we have candidates that are so anti-Islam that one is not different from the other a huge protest vote could jam up an election. Like 2.5 million Muslims casting a write in vote for the same person or fictional character, insh'Allah.
Zohra Kamal - (Community Leader)
Yes, I am most definitely voting.
I feel it is my civic duty to vote. It is a privilege to vote, a privilege that many people are losing their lives over. It is important to vote because it is our opportunity to have our voice heard within the government.
Many people feel that their vote will not count or does not make a difference. However, I strongly oppose this view. As a society, our collective voice does make a difference. Choosing not to vote is as if one does not want to take an active role in society. It is as if one has opted out of being a part of America. By getting involved and voting despite belonging to a minority group, can still invoke change. We need look no farther than the Tea Party as an example.
Muhamed L. S:
I will vote, particularly because people have died to have the right to vote. And even though neither candidate will have the best policies in terms of the Muslim world, Obama is not coming from a place of ignorance like Mott Romney is , and is more favorable to do less harm to Muslims.
Faraz Iqbal (Community Leader)
Yes, I voted. Did early voting.
In my opinion it is important to vote so your voice is heard. We sometimes take for granted this right we have. If we look at recent world events we see that many people aren't so fortunate where they can vote and have their voices heard. Here we do.
As a Muslim we need to get involved. The broader community here in the US needs to know that there is a Muslim community here that are contributing members to society and that we do get involved. Even if you don't agree with any of the candidates on the ballot...you can always write in any name. No one is forced to elect a name. Also, there are often local ordinances on the ballot, so it is important that you have your say on them on vote for or against them.
Mulham Shbeib (Community Activist)
In America, a guiding principle is that all people are created equal. With that understanding, isn't it time that all votes become equal as well? As this Presidential election has shown us, the race for the White House has been reduced to a few 'swing states.' A Democrat in Utah has no incentive to vote as that state's red electoral outcome is guaranteed. If the election was decided by popular vote, wouldn't a Utah democrat feel more inclined to vote, thus increasing the national tally?
American Muslims are swing votes in various swing states. In Georgia we are a small voting minority in an already decided red outcome. I am voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President. Unlike Obama, he doesn't have the blood of innocent Muslims on his hands and unlike Romney he wouldn't add more. Let's challenge the two party system and bring a true voting democracy to our country.
Shaheen Bharde (Community Leader)
YES, I am voting.
I believe we must take advantage of our rights, and become involved - as members of school boards, masjids, in mayoral offices, on city councils, and running for government positions and offices while maintaining our duties and obligations to Islam. Imagine the the great message we can send to others!
Anything else you feel important related to being Muslim & voting. - Muslims speaking out, showing up in numbers and being involved in the political process will enable our vote to be sought-after by political nominees. We will then be taken seriously, and considered a vital consituency by candidates of all political parties; thus, requiring them to address issues of great concern to our community. American Muslims are increasing in numbers; hence, we stand to make an increasingly significant difference in the outcome of elections.