What A Joe Biden Presidency Means For Muslims

For the Muslim community, we should be particularly weary given his stances on a number of issues.

By

Haider Syed
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Disclaimer: every opinion expressed in written pieces is that of the writer, and doesn’t represent the view of our publication.

In an age of rising right-wing fascism – let alone the tide of hopelessness gripping much of our world through the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic and looming climate catastrophe – it’s easy to slip into despair. The past four years in particular have felt like shockwave after shockwave. 

The era of Donald Trump has come to define the absurdity of our world. An abhorrently brash and reckless presidency thus far, since taking the oval office in 2016 Trump has certainly stayed true to his time in the entertainment industry, running his administration like nothing more than a reality-tv show. He handles the presidency with a soap opera-esque feel with shocking gaffes, firings left-right and center, and a gripping anticipation of what will happen next. 

Over the past four years, the Trump administration has turned anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric –  which riled up support for him amongst hard-right factions – into legitimate policies. The Muslim ban perhaps most ardently shows the grim circumstances that Muslims are facing, with chances that a second Trump term would see further measures of increased policing, restriction and harassment targeting other minorities under the guise of protecting the country against terrorist threats. Not to mention the increased hostilities against Muslims: reports of attacks skyrocketing and the normalization of Islamophobic rhetoric and bigotry in the mainstream. 

This has been nothing but a testing time, and the community has become heavily invested in the 2020 election campaign.

So it’s understandable that many would take the first opportunity afforded to get rid of Trump. The Muslim community in America and much of the Muslim world are closely eyeing the upcoming November elections and wondering what outcome will ensue. 

The early promises of the Bernie Sanders campaign and his embrace of the Muslim community was met with a wave of overwhelming support from Muslims, especially from young Muslims. But as the attacks against him increased and further candidates began to drop out of the race, Sanders’ promise to quickly fizzled out. Losses in mid and late March led him to suspending his campaign by the first week of April.

Enter Joseph R. Biden Jr. 

Going into Super Tuesday, he was down in the pecking order, an afterthought, and someone who was expected to bow out of the race at any moment. But that night quickly shifted everything in his favor and now today he stands alone as the man millions will be looking towards to defeat Trump in a few months. 

Biden promises, both figuratively and literally, a return to the pre-Trump days. The former Vice-President symbolizes the stark contrast between the gloom and chaos of the current administration to that of the Obama White House – one of the most popular presidencies in recent American history. 

Biden has built a reputation as a charming fatherly figure, an old-timer whose experience and guile are unmatched; a career politician who has what it takes to dethrone Trump as commander-in-chief. He’s seen as the “Mr. Nice Guy” of American politics who even Lindsey Graham once described as “….as good of a man as God ever created.” 

The former vice-president has presented himself as an exemplar of honesty, a pillar of morality, and the candidate to bring stability back to a nation looking towards its leadership for sanity and direction. 

But who really is Joe Biden? Once you start scratching beneath the surface, a far more grim picture begins to take shape. Under the veneer, his track record is an atrocious plethora of issues that makes him out to be an extremely vulnerable candidate – especially since he’ll be up against someone like Trump who will not hold back in his attacks. 

Beyond the smile, we have seen a man struggle significantly on the campaign trail thus far as he routinely forgets things while speaking, displays moments of sheer cluelessness, incoherence and so forth. But what actually should be troubling potential supporters is his past. 

The “anyone but Trump” rhetoric starts to feel futile when we take a closer look at Biden’s record on a number of significant issues. For the Muslim community, we should be particularly weary given his stances on a number of issues that involved minority and civil rights. 


Joe Biden visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in UAE.

 

Perhaps most notorious is Biden’s reputation on racial integration during the civil rights era and furthermore his role in legislation that decimated Black communities across the nation. Biden was a long-time close friend of ardent segregationist Strom Thurmmond, whom he publicly praised numerous times as a remarkable individual. 

Biden remarked once that Thurmmond – whose career was defined by his long-standing opposition to the implementation of Civil Rights in America which included him switching parties for the sake of it – told him that if there were ever to be a Democrat as President he’d like it to be Biden. 

Biden spent years not only vehemently opposing integrationist efforts such as busing (which came up in the debates in a heated exchange with Kamala Harris) to appease white constituents back home, but did not shy away from outrightly defending the segregationists he was collaborating with then. He advocated opposing desegregation under the banner that it was for the good of Black people and culture in America. 

These inconsistencies, or outright lies, come into the spotlight again when we look at his last campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1988. Then, he had to humiliatingly withdraw from the race after it came out that he plagiarized parts of speeches from Neil Kinnock and Robert Kennedy verbatim. 

When this came to light at the time, it was hugely embarrassing for him. He had also been accused of plagiarizing during law school, as well as lying about his academic achievements – all which he at first then denied but later on admitted to as well. 

In addition, he has a scathing history of simply making things up if not out-right lying about them. For one, he lied about apparently being arrested for protesting during apartheid in Soweto, South Africa when he had been attempting to go see Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned on Robben Island. 

Biden has time and time again referred to his work within the civil rights movement as a young man. Yet it isn’t helpful that in 1987 he clearly stated that in no capacity had he ever marched nor been an activist. From such antics it becomes apparent that Biden is the sort of politician who is willing to jump on bandwagons and say what he has to sway people’s opinion of him, even if that means being dishonest. This doesn’t do much to separate him from the pathological lying of one Donald Trump.

But even more pressingly when it comes to policies on social justice, Biden’s record is dicey, if not outright alarming. In 1994, Biden was one of the main proponents of the Federal Crime Bill. To say it was tough on crime would be an understatement. 

As the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden espoused the bill fiercely until it was passed, and it went on to decimate Black families and communities unrelentingly. The legislation was passed at the height of the crises evoked by the crack-cocaine epidemic. It was proposed by Bill Clinton, and having wide ranging bipartisan support from Democrats and Reaganites alike, it added dozens of new offenses, far harsher sentences for menial misdeeds, and contributed billions of dollars towards the construction of new prisons with obligatory minimum sentencing. 

While the legislation did lower crime momentarily, that was largely due to the increased deployment of officers out on the streets, which single handedly doubled the imprisonment rate over the next decade and a half.

At the time, Biden’s rhetoric and language on how drug related offences should be handled, and particularly in addressing the Black and Latino communities plagued by the worst of the violence, advocated for harsher punishments and the full brunt of a more aggressive policing system. 

His work in writing the 1995 Omnibus Counterterrorism Act to stifle the flow of drugs in America as part of the War on Drugs shouldn’t come as a surprise. And, the Patriot Act which was signed into law in 2001 following the September 11th Attacks and the beginning of the War on Terror was attributed to Biden – something he has bragged about in the past. 

Note: This was the same legislation that gave the US intelligence apparatus unparalleled authority, which they used to police, harass, spy on and dehumanize Muslims throughout America. The interconnectedness between the violences that minorities, immigrants and racialized folks in the US face at the hands of the state could not be more apparent than this. 

Minorities and marginalized folks are attacked through the same channels –and Joe Biden has been there conducting the traffic for a long time.

Then, there’s Biden on foreign policy. Most notably, he’s been criticized for his support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He now claims he was tricked into supporting it by the Bush administration and later opposed it right as it started, at a time when he was Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

But this turns out to be untrue, seeing that Biden had been regularly calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein since the late 1990s. And in 2003, after the invasion took place he repeatedly praised President Bush for doing so, admitting he was going against those in his own party but stating it would have been a greater mistake to allow Saddam’s reign to continue. 

It doesn’t further his cause of appealing to Muslim Americans that he was Vice-President during the Obama years which were seen as an ample opportunity for the U.S. to repair its relationship with the Muslim world, yet did little to go in that direction. 

Biden has a track record for being nothing more than a war hawk. The failure of closing Guantanamo Bay in the early years was overshadowed by the ways in which the national security state was expanded during their administration, which curtailed civil liberties and gave the President only more power. 

We’ve come to know of Biden’s time as vice-president as one which revealed the extent of the NSA’s espionage metrics, record deportations, the infamous Obama Kill-List and the lawlessness of the drone assassination program in countries like Yemen or the unauthorized bombing campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Building a devastating apparatus that Trump inherited.

When we talk about a “return” to normalcy and Trump, is that what we’re going to get more of under Biden? Free handouts to the tune of $30 billion more to fund Israeli expansionism deemed hostile and illegal under international law?  Further war and aggression in the Muslim world? A failure to live up to promises made to communities in distress?

And while we often berate Trump for his connection with fellow fascist sympathizers like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, we cannot forget the fact that Biden’s own campaign’s Muslim outreach coordinator was one Amit Jani who has long standing connections with the BJP, who he has praised significantly and was even pictured with Modi recently. 

The same Narendhra Modi who has long incited religious violence in India against Muslims. That this was the individual who Biden saw as fit to make inroads with American Muslims says a lot.

Joe Biden's Modi supporting "Muslim Outreach" co-ordinator.

 

And then there are the scathing allegations on Biden for sexual misconduct and harassment. In April 2019, eight women came forward with allegations of some form of inappropriate gestures across a number of years against Biden. The behavior these women have reported are not out of line with the sort of stuff we’ve seen from Biden in recent times – pictured frequently to be overtly intimate, in touching, hugging and kissing women who are visibly in discomfort in professional settings, on the campaign trail and at events. 

In recent weeks we’ve seen one allegation in particular gain further credibility. His former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, accuses him of sexually harassing her in 1993 – with now various fragments of her story aligning to give her claims a source of integrity

Biden this week outrightly denied the allegations and fellow Democrats have come to his support, as he felt bewildered by the timing of Reade’s allegations. She has repeatedly spoken of the difficulty of coming forward personally and the challenges she’s faced when she went to her superiors about the misconduct. 

Yet it’s disheartening to see that just over a year ago when it was Brett Kavanaugh who was being grilled about his own sexual misconduct, Biden remarked, “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”

The way in which those same Democrats, who have repeatedly drawn hammer blows at President Trump’s own history of sexual misconduct and misogyny are now defending Biden, underlines the fact that some only believe women when it’s for political gain.  

When it comes down to it, it’s more about choosing sides than gaining justice for the victims – indicators of moral bankruptcy, and an indicator of the perverseness of contemporary American politics. 

Taking all this into account, it becomes apparent that the Democratic establishment haven’t propped up all their support behind Biden because they think he’s the best man for the job – but because they want to tap into that same supporter base that won Donald Trump the 2016 election. That a racist apologist and a misogynist can actually get the vote.

The fact of the matter is that Joe Biden is a closet Republican who has been parading as a progressive democrat for far too long – the party’s top brass feel they can exploit this in their favor by winning over large swathes of the Right across the country. 

Rather than shifting the conversation towards the Left and guaranteeing everyday Americans with basic necessities such as universal healthcare, the party has gone for a centrist politician who is riddled with vulnerabilities that are already being laid bare, and by November will probably have cost him the election, leading to four more years of further turmoil under Trump.