Colin Powell's remarks (the right answer to whether Obama is a Muslim -- he isn't -- should be what if he was) seem to have motivated reporters to take a look at the state of Muslim attitudes towards both McCain and Obama. Muslims have the impression the candidates are keeping their distance.
Biviji said it hasn't always been easy for Muslim-Americans to support candidates who don't usually seem to support them.NPR, Obama's Absence Upsets Some Muslims, Arabs:
"Neither candidate has visited a mosque," said Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties and advocacy group. "It might not be a gesture that's the politically right thing to do, but it's the morally right thing," Rehab said. CAIR has registered thousands of Muslim voters across the country.
Asma Hasan echoed Rehab's frustration about the occasional fumbles of the candidates toward the Muslim community. She pointed to a June incident at an Obama rally.
Two women were told not to sit behind Obama because they were wearing head scarves. Campaign volunteers thought it would would look bad if the women were seen behind the candidate in a photo or on television.
The Obama campaign quickly apologized, and a campaign spokeswoman said that the incident was not reflective of Obama's message, according to the New York Times.
More recently, a woman at a McCain rally in Minnesota stood up and faced the candidate. She said she doesn't support Obama because "He is an Arab." McCain shook his head and replied, "No ma'am, no ma'am."
Siblani says both Obama and McCain have allowed the words "Arab" and "Muslim" to be hurled as pejoratives.Should Muslims be more understanding of the political calculus that says they might be more respected in an Obama presidency, but that the odds of Obama winning would fall if he visited a mosque now?
And Siblani says worst of all, neither candidate has made a significant effort to reach out to his community.
Siblani also heads the Arab American Political Action Committee, which for the first time is not endorsing a presidential candidate.
"When you are running for office, you're supposed to talk to all Americans. You're supposed to feel the pain and the suffering and the good and the bad, and form your agenda based on what people need," he says. "How could you exclude 3 and a half million Arabs and 6 million Muslims out of your campaign?"
Siblani says Muslims are angry with McCain. But he says many are disgusted with Obama, who he says wants the benefit of his community's vote without the liability of being seen with Arabs and Muslims.
Nadia Bazzy is a third-generation Lebanese-American. She says she's waiting for the day when people see her the same way they see people who worship in churches and temples.
"So while this is a campaign built on change, whether it's on the side of Obama or McCain saying he's going to change Washington, are the American people ready to think of Arabs and Muslims as Americans? And that's the major question," Bazzy says.