In contrast to Trump, Biden claims to ally himself with the people. Thus, we tread with cautious optimism. We will raise our voices and hold words accountable. We will continue to demand and demonstrate because resilience is inextricably linked with the nature of a Muslim.
Biden or Trump? American Muslims Searching for Hope
The 2020 presidential election was one of the most volatile and overwrought moments in recent history. The morose fog of a global pandemic and national racial tensions hung suspended for days, as ballots were counted and votes fluctuated between the two candidates.
The seminal moment in which Joe Biden was finally declared President-Elect was marked by the rapturous cheering of citizens throughout the country. In New York, honks and wails of joy filled the air all day. It was a celebration to mark the end of an era, and in many ways, the victory of a war of ethics and human decency. Most have made it clear that this conviviality was not for Biden’s succession into the most powerful position in the world, but the loss of authority for the Trump Administration.
The overarching discourse expresses relief and hope for a new ability to fight civilly for tangible reform. Yet some remain dubious and remind us that Biden and his chosen vice president are far from anyone’s first choice, especially for the Muslim and other minority communities alike. Precarity with the Biden administration stems largely from both Biden and Harris’s well-documented history of supporting crime reform policies that have disproportionately harmed the African American communities, and their stance (or lack of stance) on Palestinian human rights.
The fact that Biden served as the former vice president under the Obama Administration, an era that is indelibly tainted by bestial and illegal drone strikes, a US military presence in the Middle East, unjust surveillance of American Muslim communities, and warfare, makes many wary of a Biden Presidency.
So our community has been dichotomized with those clinging onto a newfound hope despite the newly elected Administration’s discrepancies. Others hold the belief that notwithstanding Trump’s incendiary rhetoric, no war was started during his reign, and thus, his impact on Muslims abroad was far more advantageous. The fact of the matter is, navigating human rights and foreign policies, regardless of the current holder of office, will always be surfeited with intricacies and no clear choices.
American Muslims and Muslims around the world for that matter have been seeking clarity and honesty for decades from countless administrations in this country. Obama and Biden said all the right words, but their clandestine actions negated it all. Meanwhile, Trump openly coddled white supremacists and Islamophobes. So where does this leave us within the American and global society at large?
First and foremost, it is imperative to recognize that wherever one falls on the spectrum, the Muslim community transcends American borders. We consider ourselves one Ummah and one body as the Prophetic tradition narrates. So it seems no matter who we choose to support or not support, our body will ail and ache. No war was indeed started under the Trump administration. Trump even withdrew US military troops from the Middle East. Well, somewhat as several troops still remain. Regardless, Trump was a tyrant, and tyrants can morph and manipulate.
Decades of warfare, insidious and overt animus has thrown our community into an unshakable, feverish dream. When we recall the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq post 9/11, torture camps in Gitmo, the passing of the patriot act, and Obama’s fatal drone strikes, including the one on a Pakistani family having dinner days after his inauguration, we try to look past Trump’s “Islam hates us” comments. We try to breathe a sigh of relief. But such respite is disillusioned. Did war truly end under Trump? At the very least, was war truly not declared under him? No, Trump’s war was ongoing. His weapons of choice included the manipulation of his cronies, his speeches, reluctance to denounce hate groups, financing, and more.
His rhetoric transcended the virtual walls erected by Twitter into the veins of American life and rode the winds across the globe. Hate crimes and domestic terrorism increased in his wake. In Churchill, New Zealand, two mosques were attacked by a gunman who claimed the lives of over fifty people. This man and other perpetrators have lauded Trump on his hostility towards the Muslim and minority communities. The war on Yemen, delineated the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, was only intensified under Trump. Days after he was sworn in as Commander in Chief, US troops led a raid on a Yemeni village. According to Trump, it was a success, despite the bloody reality that resulted in the deaths of at least 10 children under the age of 13.
A recent Airways report has revealed that the years 2017 and 2018 have been the US military’s most active years in terms of operations and strikes in Yemen, including the deadliest for civilians. Not to mention, his unfailing support and arming of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E in their campaigns against Yemen. His second presidential veto was to block an order by congress to end U.S involvement in the Yemeni War.
We have yet to even expound on the US airstrikes in Somalia which reached unprecedented levels under Trump, their inhumane sanctions on Iran amid a global pandemic, or US airstrikes across Afghanistan. It was under Trump that the US-led air and artillery campaigns in Iraq and Syria against ISIS claimed the lives of over 13,000 civilians. Trump has an openly established friendship with India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, under whom the Muslim minority in India has continued to be pillaged in the name of Hindu nationality. In addition to this, his administration’s policies on Palestine have been devastating. They erased the 1967 borders by recognizing the Golan Heights and the annexation of settlements, recognized an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and defunded Palestinian refugee agency UNWRA.
Does this mean that under a Biden presidency American Muslims and Muslims around the world can usher in an era of peace? Far from it, yet, what we can look towards is a reality of accountability. Biden has made several seemingly magnanimous pledges towards the Muslim community.
These include promising to immediately revoke the Muslim Ban his first day in office, an oath that Muslims will serve at every level, as well as, publishing policy agendas targeted towards helping Muslim and Arab American communities. These words are rather mellifluous when juxtaposed towards the malice that Trump campaigned upon. It is not enough. It does not discount the legacy of Obama’s administration or the fact that the Biden Campaign’s first hire in overseeing Muslim voter outreach was a known supporter of the Hindu Nationalist BJP party. Nor does it obscure his extreme pro-Israel stances.
Almost a week after the announcement of his victory, and we continue to hear his pledges. Now we begin to scrutinize those who will serve in his administration, including those on his transition team for the department of justice. Most are corporate lawyers without a background in social justice or reform. Biden’s speech, gracious and rosy, will remain as such until change is enacted at all levels of society, national and international. Those who remain dejected about the prospects of either candidate are not unjustified in their faithlessness. Much like Obama, Biden has campaigned on a message of healing and unification. However, once Obama’s promises were spoken, they were left suspended in a void, never fulfilled and forgotten under a bloody legacy.
But with the end of Trump’s era, we can look to a world where negotiations, discussions, and demands can be implemented without a flippant bully at the head. We have to remember that militarism, racism, and wealth inequality did not begin with Trump. It has been the bedrock of American leadership for far too long. Negligence of humanity and unfettered avarice have constituted the norm for decades. In contrast to Trump, Biden claims to ally himself with the people. Thus, we tread with cautious optimism. We will raise our voices and hold words accountable. We will continue to demand and demonstrate because resilience is inextricably linked with the nature of a Muslim.