Muslims More Likely To Vote on Values Than Foreign Policy

By Ori Nir

Published March 28, 2003, issue of March 28, 2003.

WASHINGTON — Republican outreach efforts to the American-Muslim community during recent years have yielded considerable fruit that is not likely to be undercut by the war in Iraq, according to the GOP activist most closely identified with that outreach, Grover Norquist.

The reason, Norquist said in an interview with the Forward, is that ethnic and religious minority groups are usually less likely to vote on foreign policy issues than they are on values.

Norquist compared Muslims to Orthodox Jews, saying both groups feel more comfortable with the Republican Party “because the Democratic Party is aggressively secular and does not like people of faith.” It is on that basis, Norquist said, that the Republican Party approaches ethnic and religious minorities. “You do not, however, approach them on foreign policy issues,” he said.

Because of this approach, he said, President Bush polled strongly among Arab Americans and Muslim Americans in 2000. “Bush did well with Muslim Americans, maybe less so with Arab Americans,” Norquist said, even though he “campaigned on the issue of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.” By the same token, he said, “we will do better [than the Democrats] with the Orthodox Jewish vote, and that will have nothing to do with who runs Hebron.”

Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, a coalition of conservative groups that advocates tax relief, is considered close to the White House. In his view, the president and his advisors did not have electoral considerations in mind when they decided to invade Afghanistan or to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“I assure you no one in the White House is even thinking about this stuff,” he said. “They would be irritated if anyone would suggest that this goes into their thinking, and it doesn’t.”

Norquist conceded, however, that Bush is likely to lose some Arab and Muslim support if the war in Iraq evolves into a protracted siege of Baghdad. “If everything goes to hell, then of course,” Norquist said. “But look, two years from now — who the heck knows.”



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