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What American Muslims Need to Remember Going Forward with President Biden

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Remember, the biggest expansion of watchlists targeting American Muslims took place under the Obama-Biden administration, not the Trump-Pence administration. The infiltration of our Islamic centers with FBI agent provocateurs was more under Obama-Biden than under Trump-Pence too.

I decided to wait [a few days] before sharing some thoughts to give folks proverbial time to breathe now that Mr. Trump is out of the Oval Office.

As Mr. Biden stated, he repealed the travel ban on some Muslim majority countries which Mr. Trump instituted as his first executive order as president. I am of the view as many others that this ban wasn’t due to legitimate national security concerns but was driven by populist xenophobia in an attempt to make good on a campaign promise. I welcome this repeal by Mr. Biden even though the ban had zero effect on my day to day personal life in the past 4 years.

I expect Mr. Biden to also be more rhetorically sympathetic to Muslims overall as well as other “minority groups.” Despite what some may opine, words matter, and symbolism is not totally irrelevant. He will probably give Muslims some awards like Obama did and have the White House Iftars again. He may even make an “‘Eid Mubarak” video and quote a hadith again.

Regarding issues that relate to all Americans, I’m confident that he will be more aggressive in placing more robust measures regarding COVID-19 prevention as well as pushing for more effective delivery of vaccines. He’s already signed a mask mandate for all federal buildings.

In saying that, my optimism about Mr. Biden is extremely tempered. In fact, I do not expect much out of him, especially as a direct benefit to the American Muslim community. The same critiques as to why many American Muslims criticized Mr. Biden when they supported Bernie still apply.

Mr. Biden is still a neoliberal who also has a prolific record of supporting military actions in Muslim countries from the illegal invasion of Iraq to extrajudicial drone murders. He has consistently supported aggressive surveillance of American Muslims too – he bragged about basically helping to craft the Patriot Act for instance.

Remember, the biggest expansion of watchlists targeting American Muslims took place under the Obama-Biden administration, not the Trump-Pence administration. The infiltration of our Islamic centers with FBI agent provocateurs was more under Obama-Biden than under Trump-Pence too.

Mr. Biden will most certainly appoint judges that will have a mixed bag effect for American Muslims and people of religious conscience in general. as well. I have a real concern about future Biden appointed judges on the Left ruling against religious liberties.

Time will tell, but I caution against wishful thinking about how wonderful Mr. Biden is going to be.

The biggest challenge for American Muslims is not Mr. Biden or for that matter anyone who is in the Oval Office. Our biggest challenge to me is that we lack political prioritization based upon our usul. Much of our engagement is based upon feelings and now seemingly whatever the “progressive” political platform puts out.

How do we conclude what are imminent issues (ad-daruriyat), issues that are difficulties (al-Hajiyyat) that don’t rise to that first level, and what are tertiary issues (at-Tahsiniyyat)? Who has the tacit authority to set them, and can those who set them produce a methodology as to how they came to such priorities? And are we even suppose to have a monolithic set of priorities given differences of race, national origin, class, and madhhab, and if not, should American Muslims cancel others or subject them to a type of socio-political takfir who don’t share their priorities?

Given the heat has been taken off American Muslims in the past year in that we haven’t been kicked around like a political football in the national discourse, we have time to present some more sophisticated political analyses based on our sacred teachings for respectful communal debate so that we can do better. We must do better. Only Allah knows how long intense heat will be off of us, thus we need to seize this moment.

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