7 Questions to Ask the Candidates
A Primer on U.S. Elections
Here is a short primer for my international readers unfamiliar with the U.S. election cycle. Every two years, American citizens vote for their candidate for the House of Representatives. Every member of Congress is up for election. Every four years, each American citizen gets to vote for a candidate for President. Every six years, the senate candidate is up for election. Because the term is six years, one-third of the senators come for election every two years. The elections held between the Presidential four-year elections are called the midterm elections. That is what the U.S. is getting ready to do on November 4th, 2022 – to have the midterm elections. The winners will take office in January 2023.
There are two major political parties in the U.S.: in 2020, 29% of voters identified as Republicans, and 33% of all voters identified as Democrats. However, 34% of registered voters identify as Independents, affiliated with no political party. The key to winning the majority of candidates is to sway the Independents.
Before the midterm elections, each political party holds an internal party election to pick its best candidate against the opposing party. These elections are called primaries. The local communities and the states select the date to hold these elections. They are the first votes in the election process.
Who Are the Candidates?
Three Muslim candidates are up for the congressional election, and one Muslim candidate is for Senator.
Andre Carson, Democrat, the incumbent congressman from Indiana's 7th Congressional District, won his primary back in May. His district leans Democratic, and he will probably win in November.
Rashida Tlaib, Democrat, the incumbent congressman from Michigan's 13th Congressional District, is now facing three candidates in a newly created 12th Congressional District. She probably has the inside track, but whoever wins the primary will probably win in November. This election is on August 2nd, so that we will know soon.
Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, is the incumbent congressman from Minnesota's 5th Congressional District. Congressman Omar has caused several scandals and now has serious opposition for her congressional seat. The leading opposition candidate is Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member. While I have not seen a poll, it is possible this opposition candidate could win. The election is on August 9th, just ten days away.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican, is the opposition candidate in Pennsylvania, running for Senator. In 2022, Oz said he is a "secular Muslim" and is opposed to Sharia law. Oz barely won his primary, but now a couple of polls on the "538" site and Real Clear Politics show Oz behind by 6 to 9 percent for the midterm election.
Seven Questions to Ask Your Muslim Candidate More than any other person, Thomas Jefferson fought for the religious and civil freedoms of every minority in the United States. During his time writing the Declaration of Independence and later the U.S. Constitution in the late eighteenth century, the minorities recognized by the Founding Fathers were Catholics, Jews, American Indians, and Muslims. Some Catholics were Founding Fathers and thus part of the First Congress in 1789. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was the first elected Catholic President. The first Jewish member of Congress, Lewis Charles Levin, took office in 1845, and while no Jews have ascended to the Presidency, several have campaigned. The first Muslim member of Congress was Keith Ellison, elected in 2007. A Muslim will probably seek the U.S. Presidency during this century.
Some Muslims are known to believe that democracy is blasphemous. In 2012, presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich supported the notion that Sharia is incompatible with American democracy. So, how can we tell if a Muslim candidate believes in and supports liberal democracy in America? Here are seven questions that would be relevant to ask any candidate running for office.
1. Will you support and uphold the process of democracy, that laws made by men can be used to govern men?
An orthodox Muslim believes that laws governing men should come from God's laws. Fundamental Muslims believe that democracy smacks of secularism and borders on blasphemy.
2. Will you allow freedom of expression (including the liberty to analyze and criticize sharia)?
Orthodox Muslims will say they will allow freedom of expression, but they will not accept anyone to criticize their religion. A person can criticize Christianity, Catholicism, and Judaism, but when one criticizes Islam, one engages in hate speech. Accusations of racism and bigotry make it tricky to contest. Any concept or idea that cannot stand to be analyzed and criticized becomes brittle and loses its ability to survive over time.
3. Will you acknowledge that organizations, political groups, and governments that use or condone violence and terror to achieve political goals at the expense of rulemaking and rule-enforcing institutions (legislatures and courts) are organizations that should be boycotted and omitted from economic trade and political discourse?
Muslims will see this as an attempt to criminalize groups like Hamas or Hezbollah, but it can apply to any country that plays outside the rules, including Israel.
4. Will you take a public stand against cases of abhorrent or criminalized behavior condoned or commanded by sharia that has no place in this country? This example includes underage or forced marriage, honor killings, female genital mutilation, polygamy, domestic abuse, and marital rape.
Most Muslims will not feel obligated towards these behaviors but will not interfere if others of their faith do it. The real question is, would they take a leadership stand against these behaviors to change the attitude in their community.
5. Do you see yourself as a Muslim or American citizen?
According to a Pew Research survey, about half of Muslims think of themselves first as Muslims, while only a quarter sees themselves first as American. Approximately one-fifth of Muslims sees themselves as American Muslims. The point here is that public officials who think of themselves first as Muslims will not make public policy decisions beneficial to America if they think the American way of life is immoral and ungodly as Muslims do in dominant Islamic countries. An example is the 2021 tweet Rep. Ilhan Omar made about herself. She wrote, "I am, Hijabi, Muslim, Black, Foreign-born, Refugee, Somali." Many commentators from social media, including an opposition candidate, noted that she left off that she was an American.
6. Will you stand for gender equality and sexual preference equality?
Islam has a long history of enforcing female gender inequality. For example, in an Islamic court, female testimony does not carry the same weight as a male's. In another instance in Saudi Arabia, "Prominent women's rights activists detained in 2018 remained in detention while on trial for their women's rights advocacy…." Many women activists protested the requirement that women, when outside the home or traveling, must have a male guardian to accompany them. While those actions do not meet muster in the United States, the attitudes that allow them to occur are still under sharia law.
Islam is also known for its antagonism towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. LGBTQ lifestyles are forbidden in traditional Muslim countries and are liable to different punishments, including prison sentences and the death penalty. In the United States, attitudes formed from sharia allow and support violence against the LGBTQ community.
7. The U.S. Constitution's Article VI Supremacy Clause assures that the Constitution, all Federal Statutes, and U.S. treaties as "the supreme law of the land." The Constitution is the highest form of law in the American legal system. When you take your oath to uphold the Constitution, can you put aside all other legal arrangements that might cause you to compromise your loyalty?
It would be remarkable if we could ask each Muslim candidate how they feel about these topics and if we could get honest answers. Catholics, Jews, American Indians, and Protestants do not have a history of religious/political affiliations that would interfere with the state's decisions. Although, I have seen some individual officeholders do what they can to interfere with this separation.
Orthodox and fundamentalist Muslims would be troubled with some of the topics mentioned. We need to ask these hard questions if we want true American patriotism.