[A guest post from Shefali Kulkarni, a freelancer in Portland, Oregon]
“I’m torn,” says Asma Hasan, a 34-year-old lawyer and author from Denver.
Hasan is an American-Muslim who hopped from the Democrats to the Independents and now, is a registered Republican. But she'll tell you she's politically moderate. She is a pro-choice, pro-immigration reform voter and believes that an Obama presidency would be extraordinary, but she also happens to have a crush on Todd Palin. And so she's - still - undecided.
Hasan is the author of Why I am a Muslim and American Muslims: The New Generation and an upcoming book titled Red, White and Muslim: A Memoir in Belief. But she had never considered herself politically savvy, until now.
She is one of six bloggers with Glamour magazine's blog Glamocracy--a 2008 election blog dedicated to displaying American women from various walks of life, and sharing their perspectives with readers on the upcoming election.
"They could have picked anyone," says Hasan, "a non-Muslim, a writer, so it's a real acknowledgment. And it’s Glamour—they could have asked me to write about car mechanics and I would have said ‘yes.’"
Hasan's blog focus on the McCain campaign, but isn't a Republican blog. She writes about her likes and dislikes of both the McCain and Obama camp and her posts reflect her background as an American-Muslim woman. Her ‘torn’ positions might be what generate as much as 40 comments per post.
"The comments can be vicious," she says. “But I know that the purpose of a blog can also be to get reaction as well—to increase engagement and activity on the website. I think some of the best blogs are personal, but touch upon real issues as well."
Some readers vehemently disagree with her, while one comment on her October 1st post reads, "Once again, Asma, you are right on target. I must disagree with you, one of these days. Signed, an Obama supporter."
One theme that is hard to escape from her blog is the fact that the Muslim vote is a crucial but untapped demographic for both candidates. Hasan tells me that now, more than ever, there are more politically active Muslims in this election. Her younger brother, Muhammad Ali Hasan, is running for a seat in the Colorado State Senate under a Republican ticket. But the real question is which way are American-Muslim voters swaying in this election?
NPR Intern Leila Taha writes on October 9, “What's interesting is that the Muslim community still by and large supports Obama despite his appearing to intentionally distance himself.”
One such case of this was during a June rally in Michigan where an Obama volunteer asked two Muslim women, dressed in head scarves, to change seats so as not to directly sit behind the Senator. Obama later apologized to the two patrons, but the incident unsettled some Muslim voters.
Hasan sees it the other way—her October 15 post suggests that in order for McCain to win the election he should hold, “a series of 'mosque hall' meetings at the larger Michigan mosques. It wouldn't be a huge investment of time but could make a dent with Muslim voters in Michigan, estimated at 115,000, especially since there is still some ambivalence in the Muslim community about Obama's attitude towards them."
"It's a difficult and delicate issue," she says. While Hasan tells me that she can’t speak on behalf of all American-Muslims, she knows that Muslim voters are ready to hear a solid stance from either candidate regarding the American-Muslim population. On her blog she writes, "I don't think McCain or Obama, in speaking to American Muslims, need to coddle or to try to wash their policies to seem more palatable to Muslims."
Colin Powell’s recent interview on Meet the Press exemplified the stance of today’s Muslim voters—an appeal to the notion that not all Muslims were terrorists and the negative connotation given to the Muslim faith has strained American politics.
“I thought it was very nice and only someone of his stature could say it,” says Hasan, when asked about Powell’s endorsement of Obama, “but I would like to hear Obama say those same things.”
In the meantime Hasan says she is still waiting to see either Senator Obama or Senator McCain to visit a mosque. She is still undecided about this upcoming election, but if nothing shocks her from now until November 4, she'll likely stick with her party, and vote for John McCain.