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Muslims Struggle to Find Suitable Candidate

Alex Wong/Getty Images
President Bill Clinton started the annual tradition of hosting Muslims at the White House during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan — a tradition that was continued by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (above).

The presidential candidates of both parties are competing for cash and votes on every front, with one possible exception.

Muslim Americans, particularly conservatives, say they feel slighted this election cycle. Rather than court Muslims, Republican candidates have been competing for the toughest stance on national security and openly discussing whether Muslims should be allowed to serve in their administrations.

“I’m very unhappy with the Republican Party. I’m hanging on with a string,” said Seeme Hasan, a Colorado-based Muslim whose family has donated more than $1 million to the Republican Party and its candidates.

Still, Hasan said she would not vote for President Barack Obama because he has repeatedly disappointed her. She cited two examples: His decision to keep open the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and his recent approval of the defense authorization bill with controversial new detention policies.

“Obama may say, ‘I’m friendly with Muslims,’ but all his actions from day one have been very unfriendly to Muslims,” she said. Hasan is supporting former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Her husband, Malik, runs HealthTrio, an electronic medical records firm with business ties to the Georgia Republican.

Many Muslims may disagree with Hasan — 64 percent supported Obama in a recent Pew survey ­— but community leaders say they share her pessimism about the election. Muslim voters have historically voted as a bloc, but they are scattered among the candidates this time around and, in many cases, unimpressed with their choices.

“Some members of the Muslim community are saying we should take a stand and say we support the Green Party,” said Naeem Baig, chairman of the American Muslim Taskforce, a coalition of a dozen national Muslim organizations.

The group endorsed Obama through its political action committee in 2008, but Baig said many members feel let down because of Guantánamo and the defense bill.

“Why should we trust such an administration that makes promises and doesn’t keep up with its promises?” he asked.

Community leaders have discussed throwing support behind Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) because of his stances on civil-liberty issues and foreign policy, but questions about Paul’s viability have kept them from doing so.

Several Muslim donors have so far held off on supporting the current candidates. Amanullah Khan is a Texas doctor who has given more than $110,000 to political causes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry until Perry pulled out of the Republican primary, but Khan has not given to any of the remaining contenders.

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