Muslims remain divided over the issue of whether or not to participate in politics in the American political system.
However, whether or not you decide to participate in politics, you can still bring Islamic issues to the forefront by 'haunting' candidates while they are on their campaign trail. Here are some ways you can do this:
1. Find out who the candidate representing your area is
You should also be able to find their office addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
2. Read about the candidate and their party's platform on various issues
What does your candidate say about poverty, abortion, homelessness, school voucher plans or religion in the classroom?
This is information you can also find on the above-mentioned websites in point number one. By knowing where they are coming from, you can ask informed question.
You can also find out what they have left out. If there is an issue you feel is being ignored (i.e. Muslims in America and secret evidence, American taxpayer money going to Israel, the status of Jerusalem, discrimination against Muslims in employment, etc.) keep a note of it for the next tip.
3. Attend upcoming candidates' meetings and/or debates
Keep your eye on the your local newspaper, or better yet, call the representatives of the different parties in your area to find out when their meetings or debates are taking place.
If you really cannot attend a candidate's meeting, then definitely try to attend a debate if there is one arranged by your locality. Here you can get the perspectives of several candidates at once on issues of your concern.
4. Prepare for the meeting
Meet with other Muslims and get together a list of questions ready to ask candidates for the debate or meeting. Have one person per issue.
One person could raise the question of American foreign policy in relation to a Muslim country. Another could ask about the use of secret evidence.
As well, make sure to practice asking the questions, to dress for the "part" and to speak confidently and clearly.
5. Represent the Muslim agenda: choose the right questions
You can bring the Muslim agenda in America to the attention of your candidate by asking the right questions.
One major issue is secret evidence. This law has led to the imprisonment of US citizens, most of whom are Muslims and/or Arabs based on undisclosed evidence. You can ask your candidate: are Muslims in this country equal citizens? If so, then why is the secret evidence law still in full force? Why has something so unfair and unjust not been abandoned.
You can also find a list of questions we asked the Republican, Democratic and Green parties (which were not answered - maybe you can ask the representative why they didn't respond to Sound Vision and RadioIslam.com) or you can add to them and come up with your own.
6. Show up early
Show up ahead of time to the debate/meeting so that you do not disturb anyone attending.
Remember that if you live in a locality that is unfamiliar with Islam and Muslims, you are its representative. You make a mistake and it's carried over to Islam and all Muslims, even though it shouldn't.
7. Be calm, confident and respectful
If the representative says something you dislike, don't respond angrily.
It is most likely they are ignorant about many of the issues you will raise. Calmly explain your point and avoid useless arguing.
8. Don't hide your Islam
Make it clear that you are Muslim. You can casually mention this in the course of your questions, by saying that you are one of the close to six million plus Muslims living in America.
9. Arrange to meet with them on another occasion
Don't hesitate to call the representative's office to arrange a meeting with your group to address all of the issues. It is unlikely that they will not meet with you since they are looking for votes and ways to please voters. They will at least lend you their ear.
10. Send a package of relevant material
If meeting is not possible or too difficult, then at least send a package of the issues your group wants to address. Follow this up with a telephone meeting with your group members and the representative.
11. Raise one point at a time
Whether you are speaking to a candidate by phone, e-mail or in person at a meeting, speak about only one subject thoroughly. For example, don't talk about Kashmir, Palestine and secret evidence all in one shot.
In one call or meeting, speak only about secret evidence. Get another member of your group to ask about Palestine.
This is probably the best strategy to carefully and thoroughly address an issue of concern. It also reduces confusion for the candidate, who may get the issues mixed up if s/he is asked about them in one conversation or question.
Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Matt_Moore_(politician).jpg