WASHINGTON — In a move certain to shock Democrats, a group of
influential American Muslims has endorsed Republican George W. Bush for
president.

The endorsement from the American Muslim Political Action Committee,
presented yesterday at the National Press Club, also drew sharp protests
from another Islamic group during an open news conference.

“Gov. Bush took the initiative to meet with local and national
representatives of the Muslim community. He also promised to address
Muslim concerns on domestic and foreign policy issues,” said American
Muslim Political Coordinating Council Political Action Committee head
Agha Saeed.

Muslim leadership announced its nod for Texas Gov. George Bush
at the National Press Club yesterday. Ibrahim Hooper of the Council of
American-Islamic Relations is in the center flanked by Muslim leaders
from around the U.S. Photo by Charles Smith.

There are an estimated six million Muslims in the United States, and
political analysts concede that the Muslim vote could tip key contested
states such as California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan and
Ohio. The American Muslim Political Coordinating Council stated that
several surveys of the American Islamic community confirmed that a
majority would vote for Bush.

However, several groups opposed to the endorsement of Bush rose in a
vocal protest during the press conference. Ali Kahn, president of the
Muslim Organization for Good Government openly disagreed with Saeed and
the other American Muslim leaders. According to Kahn, his large group
of African-American Muslims do not support Bush.

“We took a vote at our convention and we have to respectfully
disagree with this group in their support for George Bush,” said Kahn.
“Our poll indicated that Vice President Gore received 84 percent of the
Islamic support.”

According to both groups, the one key issue that concerns the entire
U.S. Muslim community is law enforcement racial profiling. Muslims
frequently complain that they are the targets of federal law enforcement
racial profiles at airports and terminals. Frequent searches and stops
have led to a rash of lawsuits against the federal government for the
use of “terrorist” or “criminal” profiles along racial grounds.

Another key issue for the U.S. Islamic community is the use of
“secret evidence” during immigration hearings. Muslim detainees have
been held for up to four years based on “secret evidence” presented by
the Department of Justice that was not revealed to them or their
attorneys. Secret evidence rules are currently prohibited in almost all
judicial cases. According to the group of U.S. Muslim leaders, secret
evidence rules employed by the Department of Justice are often abused in
order to hide the truth.

The Muslim leaders also noted that Bush challenged the use of secret
evidence at the second presidential debate with Gore. In a taped
message to the American Islamic leadership, Bush said he “opposed” the
secret evidence rule, saying the rule imposed by the Clinton
administration is “unconstitutional” and “violated the rights of all
Americans.”

According to Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council
on American-Islamic Relations, federal law enforcement agencies often
use racial profiling and secret evidence to illegally target
Muslim-Americans. He claimed that the Department of Justice currently
operates an organized campaign to intimidate Muslim-American leaders in
what he referred as “knock and talk” raids.

“It was Vice President Al Gore’s Anti-Terrorism commission that
recommended the Department of Justice use racial profiling and allow the
introduction of secret evidence to detain individuals,” said Hooper.

“There was a tremendous backlash against Muslims during the
millennium celebrations. We had law enforcement basically rounding up
any Muslim that breathed for questioning,” he said.

The U.S. Islamic leaders also expressed disappointment in the
Clinton-Gore administration’s handling of diplomatic efforts in the
Middle East.

“In foreign policy issues, Muslims have problems with both
Republicans and Democrats,” said Khaled Saffuri, executive director of
the Islamic Institute.

“We make very few friends in the Islamic world when American-made
helicopters are seen firing American-made missiles into West Bank city
streets filled with innocent people. Sometimes Israel is not as much
our ally as it is a liability,” he said.

“Clinton only talks to Arafat, but Yasser Arafat is not the only
Palestinian,” added Saffuri. “We should be talking to the other
prominent Palestinians and Israelis. Someone who can lead the world
away from crisis and toward peace.”

“The U.S. presidential race is so tight that Muslim votes can make a
difference,” stated Omar Ahmad, chairman of the Counsel for
American-Islamic relations.

“With millions of voters distributed in keys states this election, we
believe that we can make a difference. In the last election Muslims
voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Clinton. Today, Muslims are mobilized
across the country and this time we are voting for Bush.”

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