· Abdulkader H. Sinno
adequately represented by someone who is their co-religionist—even though thesemay very well be, or could become, reasonable generalizations. I also do not neces-sarily imply that a Muslim is better represented by a Muslim than a non-Muslim orthat an American Muslim elected o cial represents his district any dierently than a non-Muslim one. I simply attempt to solve the puzzle o American Muslimunderrepresentation, almost complete absence, in elected and appointed positions.
Tis underrepresentation is particularly puzzling because attitudes toward Mus-
lims are more positive in the United States than in many European countries with
higher levels o representation and because American Muslims, unlike European
Muslims, have the socioeconomic advantages (advanced education, high incomes)that normally encourage incorporation into state elites.Some o the explanations I explore are American Muslims’ reluctance to par-ticipate and compete, poor understanding o the political process, the incentives
o the electoral system, district size, the inuence o aggressively pro-Israel andEvangelical organizations, and general public hostility toward Muslims. I arguethat while electoral systems and popular hostility toward Muslims alone do notexplain much, the combination o large majoritarian districts with even a moder-ate level o popular hostility toward members o the geographically diuse mi-
nority is su cient to explain American Muslim underrepresentation.
Muslim Identity and American Muslim Numbers
Like other authors in this volume, I do not consider “Muslim” to necessarily indi-cate a religious identity, but an identity that may have religious, racial, political, orcultural dimensions. Tis is particularly useul in studying the dynamics o po-litical representation. Te politicized identities o elected representatives, perhaps
more so than the rest o us, shif with circumstances and expectations. Even thosewho dene themselves as “culturally Muslim” or even as “secular Muslim” ndthemselves dealing with “Muslim” issues and being considered a “Muslim” by their own political parties when they wish to appear diverse, by minority con-stituents who eel connected to them or who do not trust them, by jealous rivalswishing to discredit them, by the media when they need “Muslim” voices, and by civil society’s organizations. For example, Said el-Khadraoui, Belgium’s secularand very European-looking member o the European Parliament, who was born
to a mixed Moroccan-Flemish couple, was celebrated as a member o an “ethnicminority” by his colleagues on the Parliament’s newly ormed Anti-Racism andDiversity Intergroup.
A broader, more inclusive, denition o who is a Muslim isuseul to understand the broad range o dynamics that aect Muslim representa-tion. I thereore consider a parliamentarian to be Muslim i he or she is Muslim by aith or has at least one parent who is Muslim by aith or belongs to a group that istraditionally Muslim.