For all of the criticism and praise that President Barack Obama has received for his handling of international relations with the Muslim world, the president has never launched an official campaign aimed at obtaining the Muslim vote in America. Now, a website that purports to do exactly that has been unearthed, the implications of which raise concerns over how to deal with the Muslim community in America.
"Muslims for Obama," which was first written about by Makor Rishon's Tzvika Klein, has no official affiliation with Obama's campaign, but uses Obama's official campaign logo, claims to be "a grassroots effort by and for American Muslims," and is used mostly to organize volunteers, receive donations and get the word out about the concerns of the American-Muslim community through frequent blogging.
"We want to create a space for American Muslims who support Obama," the site's bio reads.
Obama's official campaign website features a list of 20 or so sub groups aimed at people of different faiths and races who want to get involved in the president's re-election in a community context. Among the list are networks for Jewish Americans, Catholics, Asian-Americans, Latinos and more. "Our groups are made up of supporters organizing around the issues they care about," boasts the site. "As a member of a group, you'll be connected with an online and offline community of people passionate about re-electing President Obama.
Noticably missing from the list of groups? Muslim-Americans. With more than 2.5 million Muslims in the U.S. they make up a significant number of voters. However, the Muslim religion in the U.S., ever since the terror attacks of September 11th, has been a contensious issue and many presidential candidates are weary of campaigning directly to the Muslim communities.
Ever since Obama stepped onto the political scene his connection to the Muslim world has been shaky. People have speculated that he is a Muslim, taking his middle name, Hussein, as what they see as undeniable proof. He has been criticized for pandering to the Arab world while being too tough on Israel and snubbing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
So the fact that Muslim-Americans have been left off the official campaign site might make sense in this context but it does seem odd that while the site includes groups that must be smaller than the Muslim-American community, groups such as Native Americans and sportsmen, the 2.5 million person community has been left out.
"There is a Muslim campaign, it's not official, but it's a quiet campaign," Mark Sell, Chairman of the Republican Party in Israel, told Makor Rishon.
"The connection between Obama and Muslims is clear," said Sell. "There's a long list of actions by Obama towards the Muslim community over the past few years, and he has people at campaign headquarters who are responsible for maintaining the connection with the Muslim community in America, so it would be impossible to say definitively that there is no outreach."
"Because of the failing policies of Obama in the Middle East there are Republican, and even Democratic, attacks on the lack of balance in the Middle East. If Obama would officially establish a campaign aimed at the American Muslim community it would be like adding fuel to the fire. He doesn't need the reactions that would come of it, enough people already criticize him for being pro-Muslim," he continued.
Sell also pointed out that the Muslim communities are mostly concentrated in three states - New York, New Jersey and Michigan. New York and New Jersey always vote Democratically, so Obama does not need to spend much time or effort campaigning there. This leaves only Michigan, and for those running Obama's campaign the logic is most likely that it is not worth setting out on a massive and controversial campaign aimed at Muslims for the votes of a few hundred thousand in one state.