[Saylor's note: Originally distributed in January 2008.]
Eight Points for Political Empowerment of American Muslims
"Peace hath her victories No less renown'd than war."- John Milton
By Corey Saylor
The model of advocacy used by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) connects the vigilance and expertise of paid professionals with the energy of a volunteer community. Thanks to God Almighty, CAIR's method of unified action has a record of results.
"... (T)he Council on American-Islamic Relations has emerged as a vigilant force against discrimination against Muslims."
(Source: East Valley Tribune, 1/19/2008)
"It was overwhelming, their support."
-Host Gator Co. President Brent Oxley after CAIR supporters "swamped" the web host with "literally thousands" of complaints about Right Wing Howler, a blog whose author expressed support for the sentiment "...we need to kill all Muslim kids. Starting now." The web site was shut down.
(Source: St. Petersburg Times, 12/20/2006)
"Already fighting on behalf of American Muslims is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, as it is commonly known. The organization...has developed a reputation for being something of a pit bull in protecting the civil rights of Muslims."
(Source: The Indianapolis Star, 9/04/2005)
This advocacy model encourages Muslims to use the system to stand for their rights, values and to inject their voice into our national political dialogue.
Point 1: Hold Fast to Your Faith
Do not compromise your ideals. Hold fast to your values. Good civic works involves compromise, but know and adhere to your moral and ethical "red lines."
Point 2: Prove that You Can do the "Heavy Lifting"
Each local community should prove to its neighbors that it can turn out Muslims to interfaith banquets, political rallies on issues of mutual concern and on Election Day. This is action. People respect it.
Point 3: Form More PACs, Connect these PACS
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a group organized to elect or defeat public officials or to oppose legislation or policy. America's Muslims will benefit from forming more PACs that can participate in local and national elections. While these PACs should have the independence to act as they choose, a coordinating body that can help connect the organizations to share best practices and, when wanted, assist in paralleling work on issues of national concern will be empowering.
Point 4: Insist That Elected Officials Do More Than Simply Show Up
Friendships are welcome and beneficial. However, your bottom line with elected officials must be a track record of action - votes, hearings, public statements - in support of your issues. Substantive support for your issues is more important than face time, number of visits to a mosque or something done a long time ago. Civic work is about making things better for you and your neighbors. This can range from negotiating a less expensive trash collection contract to opposing warrantless eavesdropping. If everyone is smiling at the meetings, but the trash still sits uncollected on the corner, you have not achieved your purpose.
Point 5: Connect with a National Muslim Organization of Your Choice; Support Local and National Muslim Public Affairs Organizations Financially
Our growing institutions are understaffed. Consider giving them more financial support. Your contributions should be tied to the organization providing you with professional service, results and incorporating you into a unified body of activists.
Point 6: Don't Expect an Immediate Place at the Table; Don't Accept a Permanent Seat Away From it
When you are new it is perfectly reasonable for others to "sound you out." They will see if you deliver on promises. They will frequently hold back to ensure that partnering with you will generally reflect well on them and help advance the issues they advocate. However, once you have accommodated this then you have the right to be part of the policy making process.
Point 7: Pursue a Career in Public Affairs
Our community needs more journalists, people working on Capitol Hill, in state government or any number of other places of civic service. Try volunteering for a political campaign.
Point 8: Seek Mentors
Japanese Americans have an experience that in many ways directly parallels ours: they were blamed for an attack on this nation. The civil rights movement is immensely important to understand effective advocacy and draw inspiration. The list is endless. Seek to learn from those who have succeeded already; it cuts the learning curve immensely.