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Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Muslim vote split in US elections

By Sima Kotecha
Newsbeat US reporter

With America set to decide between Barack Obama and John McCain for their new president next Tuesday, Newsbeat visits a mosque in a New York suburb to find out how Muslims feel about the election.

Barack Obama and John McCain

Many of America's 4 million Muslims are feeling angry about the Presidential race.

They feel they've been rejected by mainstream politics in the US, a result perhaps of the 9/11 attacks by followers of Osama Bin Laden, the Islamic extremist, and for which many still feel hated and alienated by their fellow citizens.

I do find it offensive that being Muslim is being considered as a slur. That is offensive, it is racist and it is unfortunate
Azeem Khan, 27, from New York
At a mosque in Queens, New York, Anoushka prays for peace.

She thumbs her prayer beads and tells me that a Barack Obama victory would make the world a better place.

She said: "He seems like a truthful person and he has good policies."

She also happens to think, wrongly, that he's a Muslim.

Most of the Muslims here are pro-Obama. After all New York is a state that normally supports his Democratic Party.

Vote split

Traditionally, American Muslims have often supported the Republicans. However, this election is turning things around.

Muslim women praying in India
Many Muslims in America want a change in the country's leadership
With the economy wobbly and Republican President Bush talking in tough and condemnatory terms about radical Islamic groups worldwide, many are switching sides and promising to give Obama their vote.

Azeem Khan, 27, is one of them. He said: "There are many Muslims who say because of what they've seen in the past eight years they can't bring themselves, in their lifetime, to vote for a Republican.

"It is sad for them to see unfair wars like the Iraq war where life is lost for no reason."

Religious 'slur'

This election hasn't been an easy one for Muslims.

They've watched Obama, a Christian who spent four years as a child in Muslim Indonesia, apparently fight shy of public association to the faith.

At a rally in Detroit two women in hijabs were told not to stand behind him.

His campaign quickly apologised but Azeem Khan is unimpressed.

He said: "I do find it offensive that being Muslim is being considered as a slur. That is offensive, it is racist and it is unfortunate."

Colin Powell and Nigerian hip-hop group Olu Maintain
Colin Powell (centre) wants Barack Obama to be the next US president
Recently, the man who used to run US foreign policy under President Bush's leadership came to the defence of Muslims.

Colin Powell, one of the most respected Republicans in the United States, has endorsed Obama for President.

He told the nation it shouldn't matter what religion the Democrat was.

He said: "I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said.

"Such things as, 'Well you know that Mr Obama is a Muslim'. Well, the correct answer is, 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.'

"But the really right answer is, 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is, 'No. That's not America.'

"Is there something wrong with some seven-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president?

"Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.

"This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Polls here suggest 10% of Americans still think Obama is a Muslim.

This Texan woman who didn't want to give Newsbeat her name is one of them.

She said: "I really don't care what Obama says because I don't want someone with a Muslim background running our country.

"He'll be letting them all come over here and he'll be buddy buddy with them all.

"We'll be giving them nuclear arms. Next thing you know they'll be attacking us again."

Her strongly held views demonstrate why so many of the Muslims in America feel isolated and unwelcome in the land of the free.

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