Arab Americans Leaning Towards Kerry In Election In Which They May Affect Outcome, Amidst Concerns About Civil Rights and New FBI Interrogations

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A new article in the August 2, 2004 issue of the weekly web magazine News Informant outlines the concerns of Arab Americans, with the new round of FBI interrogations of Arab Americans and Muslims. The Arab-American community, which supported George W. Bush in the 2000 election, is now leaning toward John Kerry with concerns over their safety and civil liberties.

The article delineates political changes in the Arab-American community that may affect the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November 2004. Most Arab-American voters in the 2000 election voted for Bush. Now, according to a Zogby International poll of this community, a distinct majority supports Kerry. Arab-Americans are concentrated in some hotly-contested states, such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The issue of civil rights has become a primary concern, since the passage of the Patriot Act; the long detention, without charge, of dozens of Arab Americans and Muslims, after 9-11; and the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The result of this shift in opinion may be trouble for President Bush in his campaign for reelection.

A widely publicized study of Detroit-area Arab Americans and Chaldeans shows that these communities love living in the U.S. but, at the same time, they fear for their families because of insults, threats and vandalism, as well as long detentions of individuals after the Sept. 11 attacks. The survey comes at the same time as a new round of FBI interrogations of the Arab-American and Muslim communities. It also coincides with the current presidential campaign, in which Arab-American voters, who are concentrated in key states, may be able to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

The News Informant article, entitled “Arab Americans' Concerns May Affect Votes & Ultimate Outcome of 2004 Election,” reveals the influence of Arab Americans in the presidential election and their concern over new rights violations. “Ninety percent of Arab Americans love the U.S. and the study even suggests that they have a higher regard for U.S. institutions – including schools, police and courts – than does the general population,” explains News Informant editor Bernard Perlstein. “The majority even support greater powers for detaining suspected terrorists. Nevertheless, they feel threatened by negative incidents with other Americans and worry that they will be unfairly targeted in terrorist investigations,” he added.

“What many do not realize is that the FBI has started a new round of interrogations of those in the Arab-American and U.S. Muslim communities. But if the FBI’s objective is to get cooperation, it seems to be going about it the wrong way,” says Perlstein. The article gives evidence that the FBI may be both frightening those very people whom they wish would come forward with critical information, as well as making bad impressions upon community leaders.

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