Lesser of two evils: What the future looks like for Muslims after the presidential election

Breaking down Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim-American communities


Barcroft Media

Electing Joe Biden does not offer much improvement for the Muslim-American community

Iman Malik

I’ll never forget coming to school the day after the 2016 presidential election. I stared at the projector in first period Java and watched the State of the Union address. I refreshed Google to see if Trump’s title had been changed to “President” instead of coding whatever program we were assigned that day. And I thought about how much of a disaster the next four years were going to be. 

As a Muslim-American, I was more fearful than most about how Trump’s presidency would affect my life. The Muslim ban made me feel unsafe and unwelcome — for several months, I harbored a ridiculous fear that I would be deported, despite being a natural-born citizen. And at a presidential level, I understood that toxicity didn’t have to come solely from anti-Muslim legislation. All it took were a few tweets about the “massive Muslim problem” to encourage a culture of Islamophobia across America — the president’s words matter, arguably a lot more than anyone else’s. 

Long story short: when Donald Trump won the election I shat my pants.   

But at least I knew what I was getting into. To me, Trump was very obviously racist, sexist and Islamophobic. I am not surprised by the downturn his presidency has taken, and his overtly xenophobic attitude is the reason why. Joe Biden, on the other hand, displays a very different image. 

He comes across as accepting and inclusive of Muslims and has laid out a detailed plan for improving the lives of Muslim-Americans. And sure, it sounds nice at first — Biden states that he will protect our basic constitutional and civil rights (wow!), which is definitely a step up from Executive Order 13769 (Trump’s Muslim ban). But Biden has horrendously failed to execute points in his plan already, leading me to believe that Muslim-Americans might not be much better off with him as president. Below are two important promises Biden has made and already broken. 

Honor the diversity and contributions of Muslim-Americans

His campaign website states “Joe will confront Islamophobia head-on … Joe appointed a Senior Advisor for Muslim Engagement on his presidential campaign and will build on that by ensuring a Biden Administration reflects the diversity of our nation across all federal agencies.”

Ah, yes. Let’s talk about the Senior Advisor for Muslim Engagement: a Hindu nationalist named Amit Jani. Jani has strong ties with India’s fascist prime minister Narendra Modi. Modi is currently striving to make India a Hindu-only nation by passing legislation that actively seeks to eliminate the sizable Muslim population in India. He has established himself as dangerously anti-Muslim with his Hindu nationalist agenda, and by supporting him, so has Jani. 

So my question is: why the f–k would Biden, or anyone for that matter, think that it would be a good idea to engage Muslims through someone who supports the segregation and discrimination of Muslims? I don’t know the answer to that question, and I don’t think he does either. After Muslims called him out for his illogical actions, he finally appointed a new Senior Advisor for Muslim Engagement. Yet Jani is still part of the campaign, and these changes seem solely cosmetic. Supposedly, Biden didn’t want to get rid of Jani because he didn’t want to risk losing the support of Hindu-Americans.

There is a big difference between Hindu-Americans and Hindu nationalists.

But clearly, Biden views them as the same. Biden’s lack of awareness regarding the treatment of Muslims outside the U.S. is also evident in his second promise. 

Champion human rights and democracy globally

Biden’s campaign website states “he will continue to oppose Israeli settlement expansion and has spoken out against annexation in the West Bank. He will reopen the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem and restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.”

But when Muslim activist and co-founder of the Women’s March Linda Sarsour spoke at the Democratic National Convention, Biden did a 180 and completely abandoned the sentiments on his campaign website. Sarsour condemned Israel for its unjust occupation of Palestine and Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesmen, tweeted a severely inaccurate response. 

Bates wrote: “Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life and he obviously condemns [Sarsour’s] views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”

First of all, it is not anti-Semitic to criticize a government that is engaged in human rights violations.

And many members of the Jewish community are on Sarsour’s side as well — Bend the Arc, a Jewish activism group, expressed its support for Sarsour and distaste for Biden’s smearing of her in a Twitter thread. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib also defended Sarsour on Twitter, saying that she was “sick and tired” of Palestinian activists being criticized for “speaking the truth about oppression and injustice.” 

Second, Biden’s blatant hypocrisy regarding his supposed opposition to Israel’s annexation of Palestine sets a dangerous precedent for his potential presidency. 

He has done the exact opposite of what he promised to do for Muslim-Americans, and I am terrified that if elected, this trend will continue. I can’t tell if Biden is deliberately being Islamophobic or is just an imbecile, but either way, his actions will likely have a serious negative impact on Muslims everywhere. 

It takes a special kind of politician to destroy their own platform before even holding office. 

But it gets even worse because Muslims still have to vote for Biden. Because the alternative is a blatant Islamophobe. Because the other option is a man whose campaign platform was literally built on calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Because even though Biden’s actions don’t match them, at least his words towards Muslim-Americans are somewhat promising. 

But it doesn’t change the fact that electing Joe Biden is like sh–ting your pants and then changing your shirt — it doesn’t fix the problem. 

Muslim-Americans can’t trust Biden to deliver on his promises, and yet, we are forced to elect the lesser of two evils.

But despite all of this, we must remember that change starts from the bottom up. Even though America’s atrocious political arena has put us in a position where we have to try and elect the lesser of two evils, it doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to fight for justice within our own communities. 

The actions we take don’t have to mirror the actions of people in the White House — Trump is overtly Islamophobic and Biden is covertly Islamophobic — but we can be actively supportive of Muslim communities and give Muslims everywhere the respect they deserve. We can help ourselves and others to start viewing Muslims as complex, layered individuals instead of threatening “terrorist” others. 

Yes, we don’t have power to draft legislation and yes, the president’s words and actions carry a lot of weight, but each individual has power.

And it is imperative for us to make use of it.