About 300 Muslims gather for outdoor Jumah prayers at Marshall Park in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday, the first of several events planned by the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs in the run up to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in the city. The DNC removed the event listing from its website after right-wing groups complained the Muslim group espoused radical views. Photo by Dwayne Gross.
At this year’s 2012, Democratic National Convention, CAIR estimated the number of official Muslim convention delegates at more than 100 out of a reported 5552. This estimate appeared to derive from the Democrats official delegate list which contains names such as Gladys Muhammad, Shaian Mohammadi, and Abdul S. Rahman.
According to CAIR, the number of Muslim delegates to this year’s Democratic convention has doubled since 2008 and quadrupled that number attending the 2004 convention.
This is “[A] direct result of…hard work and grassroots organizing within the Democratic Party," said CAIR Government Affairs Coordinator Robert McCaw. Conversely, McCaw said that only a handful of Muslim delegates attended this year's Republican National Convention (RNC), during which the RNC adopted a platform plank targeting the religious practices of Muslims.
Yet, the Democratic Party’s platform, a 32-page statement governing the party’s views on domestic and international policy over the next four years, adopted as one of the official acts of convention delegates, also included language that may concern Muslims.
The party’s civil rights plank, while espousing the Democratic Party’s belief that “[N]o one should face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion [and] gender…” also included language seeking additional protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity. In fact, over half the Democrats’ civil rights plank related to people who classify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transvestite.
In terms of international relations and the Middle East, the Democratic platform and speeches on the floor of the Democratic Convention applauded the President’s success in “[B]ringing Osama bin Laden and other senior al-Qaeda leaders to justice…”
Yet, civil liberties experts like Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor of International Dispute Resolution and the Vice President of the American Society of International Law, contend that the President’s assassination of Bin Laden and others may lack the credibility to make the killings just. In an op-ed written days after Bin Laden’s assassination, O’Connell took to task the Obama Administration for such killings, including those caused by unmanned missile-laden aerial drones. “The resort to military force on another state's territory is governed by the U.N. Charter which restricts the resort to force to a few exceptional situations,” none of which were present in the killings of Bin Laden and others like Anwar al-Aulaqi, O’Connell observed.
The issue of Palestine also figured into the Democratic platform. In a plank entitled “The Middle East,” the Democratic Party starts by articulating its “[U]nshakable commitment to Israel’s security.” The plank also applauds the President’s efforts to “ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.”
However, the only apparent controversy over this plank centered on sentences about Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, initially missing but added, through an unusual move of parliamentary procedure on the floor of the Democratic Convention. Although the plank had been reportedly vetted in advance by the pro-Zionist group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), it was criticized for omitting the Democrats’ view that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. Similar language was reportedly in the party’s 2008 platform.
To address the criticism, the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, asked delegates to approve by voice vote, an amendment adding in this missing language. Perhaps surprisingly, the delegates on the floor, including Muslims, verbally disapproved the amendment. Nonetheless, Villaraigosa exercised his discretion and determined that there was support from more than the two-third number of delegates needed to adopt the measure and deemed the amendment to the Democrats’ platform accepted.
Attorney and nationally recognized Muslim political activist Khurrum Wahid does not feel discouraged by the Democratic Party’s position on Israel. Wahid stated “This would not even be a potential controversy if not for the Arab and Muslim presence being recognized.” The fact that it was even an issue was due to the presence of Muslims on the convention floor, states Wahid. The first step of political engagement is to be present, according to Wahid, then to be heard. “Next cycle I suspect if we can double our delegates we will also have a chance at being heard. It’s a fair system of representation,” said Wahid.
Wahid was a convener of a luncheon held Thursday of the Democratic Convention, just one of the hand-full of activities organized specifically for Muslims who attended as official delegates, Democratic Party supporters, or observers. In the days prior to the official start of Democrats’ convention, a North Carolina-based group, the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs, hosted a two-day event that included a Jummah prayer service, bazaar/carnival, and town hall conference addressing issues such as Islamaphobia and the National Defense Authorization Act.
For Mohamed Abdi, a D.C. area government official who attended the Democratic Convention in his personal capacity, even though he did not attend the Muslim events, the convention was a success for the Muslim-American community. Even though the Democratic platform includes positions that Abdi opposes, he believes “[You] got to look at the big picture.”
This view was shared by Frank Islam, a DC-area financier, whose fundraising efforts earned him a post on the coveted Democratic Party’s Convention Host Committee. While supporting his party’s platform by in large, Islam believes that involvement is the answer for Muslims who don’t agree with one position or another. Islam stated “[W]e need to get Muslims more involved in the electoral process.” By so doing, Islam contends that Muslims will eventually have a greater say in the decision-making, governing process in the United States.
Talib Karim practices law in Washington DC and attended this year's Democratic National Convention.