Muslim Americans Should Hold Joe Biden Accountable for His Promises03 Jun 2020
The US Presidential Candidate for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, has recently been endorsed by Emgage PAC, which calls itself the largest Muslim American federal political action committee. Biden vowed to repeal President Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban” and embrace diversity. Muslim activists feel this is a start, but falls short on how the lives of ordinary Muslim Americans have been impacted by surveillance on their communities and the securitisation of their lives since 9/11.
Biden may have the backing of Muslim Americans, simply because he offers a better vision compared to Trump. However, changing the deeply-entrenched security structures that have targeted Muslim Americans for better part of two decades, some of which were implemented directly under Biden, will take more than the right words.
“I will stand up for Muslim communities across the country”
With the 2020 elections nearing amidst an uncertain atmosphere, there are many questions on what the incumbent, Donald Trump, and his most-likely challenger, former Vice-President Joe Biden, can offer to American Muslims.
Trump’s record on this matter is self-evident. His Islamophobia has been recorded as early as his presidential campaign. Indeed, his policies, often supported by the wider Republican Party, have caused great damage to Muslim Americans, as well as other people of colour including immigrants. Racially-motivated and Islamophobic attacks rose significantly under his presidency, with the president oftentimes showing a shocking lack of concern.
Based on that alone, Biden would stand a better chance against Trump among Muslim Americans. Responding to Emgage PAC’s endorsement of his presidency, Biden said that “As president, I will stand up for Muslim communities across the country, immediately repeal Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and embrace diversity as a core strength of our nation, not demonise it.”
Comforting words for sure, but Biden’s history should give some pause to those who may view him as a radical change. Although many of the Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies that targeted black and brown communities escalated under Trump, their origins – in their current form – lie in the administration of former President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden.
Among policies engineered by Obama and Biden was the current model of countering violent extremism that was implemented by the CIA and unveiled by Obama in 2011. The model has been used by New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to conduct surveillance in mosques in New York City. Such programmes were just the latest in a series of policies that securitised the lives of American Muslims, treating them as a national security threat. And while Bloomberg’s role in the program was rightly questioned during his failed presidential bid, but Biden’s role was not.
A mobilised community of Muslim Americans should hold Biden into account
While there are reasons to be suspicious of Biden’s motives and sincerity, that does not mean that he cannot be held into account by all Americans who have been marginalised under Trump. Although many such Americans have supported his rival, Bernie Sanders, the fact that Sanders has expressed support for Biden and many pro-Sanders Democratic Party politicians are now working with Biden tells us that he may not be as uncompromising as it would seem.
Muslim Americans, African-Americans and other communities marginalised under Trump have been in a constant state of mobilisation since he was elected in 2016. The mobilisation, as well as rising political consciousness, seems to be rising as we face the mounting death toll among African Americans due to the coronavirus, as well as the systemic structures of racism that have led to the deaths of George Floyd and many others.
In supporting Biden, these communities should be uncompromising towards his usual unwillingness to challenge the system that has brought us to where we are. Americans should let him know that supporting him comes under the condition of dismantling the systems that he himself was instrumental in perpetuating.
Even if he is elected, he should know that there is little room for the kind of complacency that he and his administration displayed in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.