Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Even though many of the candidates had the backing of local political leaders, organizations and the dominant political parties, most of the Arab and Muslim candidates who ran for office were defeated.
The only victors were those who were running in uncontested races. Only a few, non-Arab Muslims, were elected in areas where Muslims have held public office. In those cases, only one received among the highest votes of the winning candidates, while in almost every other uncontested race, the Arab and Muslim candidates received the lowest vote victories.
Click to view an overview of the elections that took place in Suburban Cook County on April 5, 2011: Click Here to view PDF.
Arab/Muslim candidates who won -- there were no Christian Arab candidates slated or backed for public office -- include:
Ahmed M. Aduib who ran and won uncontested in the race for a 6 year term on the Bridgeview Library District. Aduib had the support of incumbent Bridgeview Mayor and State Senator Steven Landek. Most offices in Bridgeview were uncontested reflecting a rare community harmony compared to other suburban communities where elections were contentious.
Nuha Hasan won a 4 year seat on the Justice Park District Board where she was also uncontested.
Those are the only success stories.
Other races showed the disconnect between mainstream American voters and American candidates of Arab and Muslim heritage. Ironically, all of the communities have large Arab and Muslim populations. But, although they do not get the support that they give non-Arab and non-Muslim candidates, Arab and Muslim voters were much like other voters and did not vote their true power. The conclusion is that in order for American Arab and Muslims to win office, Arab and Muslim voters must come out in force, more than 90 percent.
In the contested races:
Maha Hasan ran in last place for a 6 year seat on the Justice Library Board. She received nearly one-third fewer votes than the highest vote-getter in the election.
Bassam Abdallah ran in last place for a six year seat on the Orland Park Library District Board, a community where there is a large American Arab and Muslim population. Most Arabs and Muslims there, though, did not vote.
Lina Zayed lost in a bid for a four year seat on the Burbank District 111 school board. Again, Burbank has a very large Arab and Muslim population. She received less than half of the average vote cast in the election, but in her case, she was extremely active and she did not run in last place. She came in 5th place out of 7 candidates running. The top three winners received over 800 votes each.
Itedal Shalabi running for a four year seat on the North Palos School District 117 seat, lost by a large margin. The district includes Bridgeview and Palos.
Rola Othman also ran in last place in a contest for a four year seat on the Reavis High school district 220 board, also in Burbank where Arab and Muslim populations are large.
All of the candidates ran very professional and high profile races. They were organized and supported by a new political organization called Project Mobilize which helped all of the candidates combine their resources and develop excellent campaign literature and public presence. www.ProjectMobilize.org.
The key clearly is not the high quality of American Arab or Muslim candidates but rather the challenges they faced running in an atmosphere of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias that has only increased in the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorism attacks. All of the candidates were immensely qualified for the posts they were running for and are active in their local mainstream communities.
But the biggest problem is that most Arab and Muslim voters did not participate. Suburban off-year elections are already the lowest voter turnouts, which would give minority ethnic groups and advantage if they did turn out in force to vote. But when the minority ethnic voters act like the majority voters and do not vote, the results are predictable.
-- Ray Hanania