Suhail A. Khan: Was George W. Bush America's First Muslim President?





[Suhail A. Khan serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union and as chairman of the Conservative Inclusion Coalition, an organization dedicated to the political involvement of Americans of all ethnic, racial, and faith backgrounds.]

Muslim Americans are, by and large, both socially and economically conservative. Sixty-one percent of them would ban abortion except to save the life of the mother; 84 percent support school choice. Muslims overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. More than a quarter -- over twice the national average -- are self-employed small-business owners, and most support reducing taxes and the abolition of the estate tax. By all rights they should be Republicans -- and not long ago they were....

If Clinton was, as the author Toni Morrison once quipped, America's first black president, Bush was, at least momentarily, the country's first Muslim president. As early as 1999, he hosted a series of meetings between Muslim and Republican leaders, and paid a visit himself to an Islamic center in Michigan -- the first and only major presidential candidate to do so. The 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia was the first in either national party's history to include a Muslim prayer. On the campaign trail, Bush celebrated the faith of Americans who regularly attended a "church, synagogue, or mosque." After Muslim community leaders told him of their civil liberties concerns over a piece of 1996 immigration enforcement legislation signed into law by Clinton, Bush criticized it himself in one of his presidential debates against Vice President Al Gore....

But as Bush's first term unfolded...Muslim groups that protested over civil liberties infringement under the Clinton administration were predictably upset over the Patriot Act and the Bush administration's detainment policies and warrantless wiretapping activities. In the 2004 election, more than half of the Muslim vote went to Democrat John Kerry and third-party candidates.

And despite Bush's best efforts to separate terrorism from the faith of Islam, a growing chorus of conservative commentators was failing to make any such distinction. In October 2001, conservative pundit Ann Coulter was fired by the National Review for writing of Muslims, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."...

Despite the cold shoulder from Democrats, most Muslim Americans, like my mother, sided with Obama -- and voted in record numbers, particularly in electorally crucial swing states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia. And though many American Muslims have grown impatient with the Democratic administration's lack of progress on issues such as civil liberties, peace between Israel and Palestine, and the unfair treatment of Muslim charities, they remain firmly in the Obama camp. Why wouldn't they? Since the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" controversy erupted last month, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio has blasted the mosque's "terrorist-sympathizing" imam; Gingrich has made statements equating Islam with Nazism....



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