Commentary from Nafees A. Sayed – by way of

Harvard University student Nafees Syed says both candidates should reach out to Muslims in the U.S.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) — During this election, we have seen the spectacle of two presidential candidates fighting over one voter while snubbing an entire segment of the American population worthy of their attention.

We in the Muslim-American community look wistfully at people like Joe the Plumber, wishing that we too could be courted for our vote by the presidential candidates.

At the same time, we look gratefully at figures like former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who reassure us that there is hope for greater acceptance of Muslim-Americans.

Over time, we grew to expect standoffish treatment from the Republican Party. Almost a decade ago, many Muslims, my parents included, supported President Bush for his humble foreign policy stances, strong family values and reaching out to the Muslim-American community.

Things have obviously changed since September 11, 2001, and we have grown used to anti-Muslim rhetoric from Republican candidates. We have run like refugees to the Democratic Party, only to find reluctant tolerance and hope that we will go somewhere else.

American civil rights activist and intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “[The American Negro] simply wishes it possible to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly on his face.”

Over a century later, I and many other Muslim-Americans feel the same, hoping that we can be accepted in America as both Muslims and Americans.

As a college student voting in my first presidential election, I have been inspired by Barack Obama’s call for change. My campus is full of Obama posters, and several of my classmates have taken time off to work for his campaign.

There is no doubt Obama has the Harvard vote, but my vote will not be cast as enthusiastically as others.

This campaign means to me what it means for my classmates. In the next few years, the economy and American foreign policy will affect my generation unlike any other, and those concerns are the primary influences on my vote.

However, as a Muslim-American, I see some issues as more personal. I don’t blame Obama for clarifying that he isn’t a Muslim; if someone misidentified my religion, I would likewise point out the facts, especially if it was part of a larger smear campaign. However, as the first Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison stated, “A lot of us are waiting for him to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim, by the way.”

Indeed, Obama’s responses to accusations that he is Muslim should be more than just denial; they should be a condemnation of the prejudices that lace such accusations.

When I discuss this issue with fellow Muslim-Americans, especially ones who have dedicated significant time to his campaign, I immediately hear that he’s just doing what he needs to do to win.

I respond skeptically to these arguments. Is it really politically necessary for Obama to avoid visiting mosques — something that President Bush has dared to do — while rallying support from churches and synagogues? Doesn’t his careful distance from the Muslim-American community contradict his message of unity?

Still, others, my parents included, advise that it is best that we as Muslim-Americans avoid marring his campaign with our visible support at a time when any connection with Muslims would jeopardize his chances of winning. They reason that we have to politically isolate ourselves for the better candidate to win, a sacrifice we should make for our country.

I am unwilling to feign political apathy. All I want is for one of the candidates to assure me and the American public that “Muslim” and “American” are not mutually exclusive terms.

Colin Powell’s recent interview with Tom Brokaw has left me with some hope. He highlights the flaw in the question of Obama’s religion with the answer, “he is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. … But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.”

To prove his point, Gen. Powell recounted the story of Purple Heart- and Bronze Star-winning Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, an American soldier in Iraq who sacrificed his life for his country. He represents a Muslim-American community that is dedicated to its country and worthy of the presidential candidates’ attention and respect.

It is a tribute to Gen. Powell’s own dedication to his country that he would take note of the treatment of Muslim-Americans during the elections.

Thanks, Gen. Powell. You said the words that Muslim-Americans around the country were waiting to hear.

Powell Sent Back To The Fields

Colin Powell









Where “House” Field Negro’s Dare Venture

Fellow blogger C-Haze 77 broke it down when she spoke about the way GOP hardliners have thrown esteemed military general, former National Security Advisor, former General of the Joints Chief of Staff, former Secretary of State, clean under the bus for his endorsement of Senator Barack Obama.   I saw this coming when I heard rumblings of this possible choice the last few weeks.  One one hand, if he were to choose McCain, they would have said, “This great American, Statesman, Soldier of Soldiers, men of men who worked for the beloved Ronald Wilson Reagan, Bush Sr. and W, supports another soldier in Senator McCain.”  They would have used his juice to further their agenda.  But if he went with Obama, then they would say in effect its just a nigga voting for another nigga. 

This is the epitome of certain republicans and right wing hardliners to use race when it’s convenient for them, but always accuse people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton of using race anytime they point out racial injustices.  Mind you now none of them have said a word about people calling for Senator Obama’s head, these Obama bucks that came out recently, or all the other race baiting Obama/Osama bullshit correlations.  But they are calling Powell a racist?   Certainly he cannot have a set of well thought out reasons for supporting Obama right?  Hmm, lets see… read the transcript here. 

Personally I have admired and critiqued Gen. Powell, and questioned his judgment in some critical areas.  I think he made some mistakes along the way with the topper being that false report he gave to the UN concerning Iraq.   Clearly he had enough of carrying the water for the war hawks and thus he stepped down after not being welcome any longer.  They used his credibility initially to sell the war, then promptly gave him the boot to the join the rest of the Field Negros.

Obviously Powell still has juice.  If he didn’t Tom Brokaw would not have had him on Meet The Press with less than three weeks before the election.  And believe me the GOP wanted that endorsement. 

I wonder what Secretary of State Rice thinks of all this? I wonder if she will speak out against the way her friend and longtime colleague is being treated by the people she has worked so hard for.  I wonder if she understands that if she were to “step out of line” they would make her out to be some dumb black Aunt Jemimah… that these people have no love for her either.  I’m not saying an African-American cannot be a republican.   Lord knows that the Democrats are seldom our friends unless they need our votes.  Most black folks are personally conservative and socially liberal anyway.   We need representation in every influential political party.  I am saying that if people Rice, Lynn Swann, Michael Steele as well as people likerepublican strategist Tara Wall don’t privately and publically call them out on this… they are just as guilty as those promoting the racism against their own people. 

Condoleezza Rice