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Local Muslims react to presidential debate on foreign policy


The Bay Area Muslim community includes at least 100, 000 people. There's a large Afghan community in the East Bay, a sizable South Asian population in the South Bay, and the Peninsula is home to large Arab American and Iranian American groups.

Historically, the Muslim community has voted Republican – until 2008 when they voted for President Obama. However, many say they are now disappointed by his presidency, especially in terms of issues like closing Guantanamo Bay, renewing the Patriot Act, and the continuing drone attacks in Pakistan.

California has the second highest number of mosques in the country, to serve its estimated 1 million Muslims. Sixty-two mosques are in the Bay Area. On the final debate night, KALW’s Hana Baba went to one, the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara, where a debate watching party was being held by about 25 people who followed the debate over samosas and cupcakes.

Baba talked to Abdelhamead Ibrahim, Mariam Aiyed, and an organizer of the event, Zahra Billoo of the Bay Area chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, who had the following to say:

IBRAHIM: I'm really disappointed in Obama's record – and that when the Egyptian revolution happened, instead of supporting the people, he stood on the fence. But I think Obama would be the lesser of the two evils.

AIYED: Basically, I think Mitt Romney is a repeat of George Bush. When they mentioned China, he brought up Iran and how they'd like to be allies based on the nuclear weapons. Whereas, Obama isn't as big on Iran and the nuclear weapons. I'd go for Obama.

BILLOO (speaking personally, not on behalf of CAIR): I have always voted for the Green party. I always thought I would be one of those adults that prioritized domestic policy over foreign policy. But as an adult now I realize there's something incredibly unjust about me fighting for my healthcare, while supporting a president that is obliterating women and children in other parts of the world, that my right to choice involves my right to birth control pills and abortion, and the right to choice for a woman in Pakistan involves not being droned in the middle of her wedding.

Click the player above to hear the complete interviews.

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.