Mrs. Clinton’s aides are currently busy returning the checks they have received from the Muslims of New York. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has decided that it will return the fifty thousand dollars it has received because Mrs. Clinton does not approve of Dr. Agha Saeed’s views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dr. Saeed teaches political science at the University of California, Berkeley and is the president of the American Muslim Alliance, which has been supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Senate. This turn around has come after some Jewish groups in New York pointed out to Mrs. Clinton that Dr. Saeed not only opposes Israeli occupation of Palestine but also does not condemn use of violence by Palestinians in their struggle for a homeland. The Republican candidate Ricky Lazio has accused Mrs. Clinton of taking “blood money” from Muslims.
This is a curious turnaround since Mrs. Clinton herself has said publicly that Palestinians deserve an independent state. Now she will not take money from those who hold the same view. She cannot be opposed to violence per se, for she has not said a single word about the use of excessive force by Israelis that has killed over 130 Palestinians, including 40 children, in the last five weeks alone. Such turnarounds are perplexing only when one labors under the false assumptions that Mrs. Clinton is a politician of integrity. Strip of her character and political integrity and imagine her as a political opportunist who does what it takes to win, and voila you begin to understand the Machiavellian impulse behind her rejection of Muslim support.
There are over three and half million American Jews in New York, nearly as many as in Israel. No one can hope to win in New York without their money and their votes. There are barely 250,000 Muslim voters in New York. The math suggests that any sympathy Mrs. Clinton may have for Palestine’s children must be killed like they were, if she has to win this senate race. Like her opponent, she is trying his best to appease the Jewish vote. At this moment she cannot afford to take risks by taking principled stances. Muslims, needless to say, are deeply frustrated and saddened by this development. Just as the Palestinians trusted President Clinton for seven years, the Muslims of New York too supported and trusted Hillary Clinton in this campaign, only to be rebuffed, insulted and made to feel as if they do not belong.
But Muslims of New York and the US in general need not despair. The lack of moral spine in American politicians will eventually work for them sooner than later. There are already six million Muslims in America and Islam is by far the fastest growing religion in the US. At the present rate of growth there will be over 25 million Muslims in the US by the year 2025.
Muslims have already overcome their moral inhibitions about bribing politicians (called campaign finance in the US). Soon they will not only be able to out-vote, but also out- bid the Jewish and most other ethnic lobbies.
Once Walter Mondale had refused to take money from Arab Americans. Today George Bush welcomes them with open arms and open wallets. On 26th October, Bush had no qualms standing next to “hijab” wearing Muslim women in front of network cameras while addressing a rally in Toledo. In this campaign, Muslim dollars and Muslim votes are working for him. All Muslim political action groups have already endorsed George Bush, including the one headed by Dr. Agha Saeed. They might very well make the decisive difference in this close presidential race. American Muslim must now allow this singular episode to undermine their political fervor.
This episode, if anything, underscores the importance of Muslim participation in American politics. We have to increase our numbers and also make inroads into the establishment. More and more Muslims must join the major parties and younger Muslims must seek careers in the media. Things change much faster in the age of the Internet. Political realignments happen overnight. Six years from now, If Mrs. Clinton runs again for the senate, it is likely she will be campaigning on a platform that will include a promise to open new schools in Ramallah and Palestinian Jerusalem.
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is a professor at Adrian College in Michigan. He is a regular contributor to iviews.com.