Former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke on the first day of the Million Muslim Summit July 20.
Biden kicks off his speech by
- Wishing we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith, and then later,
- Vowing to rescind Trump’s “vile Muslim Ban” on “day one” (the ban, instituted for security reasons, is temporary and includes most immigrants and travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen).
The Million Muslim Summit is hosted by Emgage Action, said to be the largest Muslim-American political action committee (PAC). Emgage bills itself as a national non-partisan organization working to ensure equal constitutional rights, social privileges and political opportunities for underrepresented communities.
Emgage also organized a letter in which prominent Muslim Americans endorsed Joe Biden for president. The all-Democratic signatories include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Indiana Congressman Andre Carson.
Republican Muslims on Courting the Muslim Vote
In 2000, then nominee George W. Bush heavily courted Muslims, including a visit to a mosque. As Suhail Khan, a Republican American-Muslim who served in the Bush administration writes, there is no guarantee that courting American Muslims guarantees a relationship.
In 2010, Khan published an article in Foreign Policy detailing why American Muslims are leaving the Republican Party in droves, which also shed light on the fractured representation of American Muslims in the Democratic Party at the time:
“As a Muslim American and a Republican who served in the Bush administration, I always believed that the anti-Muslim backlash was the work of a small number of cynical bigots, not the view of the vast, fair-minded majority of Americans.
“But as the 2008 election picked up steam, participating in the political process came at a great moral cost and entailed considerable heartache. At Republican campaign rallies, harsh statements about “Muslims” and “Arabs” were ubiquitous.
“Rod Parsley, an influential evangelical pastor in Ohio and an early McCain supporter, urged Christians to wage a ‘war’ against the ‘false religion’ of Islam (McCain eventually rejected Parsley’s support). Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, when asked about putting a Muslim American in his cabinet, replied that he ‘cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified’ based on the percentage of Muslims in the country.
“If the Republican candidates treated Muslims as the enemy, the Obama campaign treated them like untouchables, keeping the Democratic candidate’s Muslim supporters at arm’s length throughout the election. When prominent Muslim and Arab Americans such as [Keith] Ellison and Democratic Party superdelegate James Zogby volunteered to campaign for Obama in key states such as North Carolina and Iowa, they were told to stay away.
“‘A lot of us are waiting for [Obama] to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim,’ Ellison lamented.
“Instead, the campaign treated ‘Muslim’ as an insult, classifying the much-circulated false claim that Obama practiced the religion as a ‘smear’ to be debunked on the campaign’s website.
“A Muslim American campaign staffer resigned when a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Glenn Simpson, asked about his religious background. At a rally in Detroit in June 2008, Obama campaign volunteers removed two Muslim American women who were seated behind the podium where the candidate would be speaking (campaign higher-ups later apologized for the incident).
“Only retired Gen. Colin Powell seemed willing to stand up to the fear mongering. ‘Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ he asked in a TV interview days before the election. ‘The answer is no. That’s not America.’
The appeal to Muslim Americans as a voting bloc is still relatively recent, a cocktail blend of increased American Muslim political organization and activism, along with the tremendous intersectional support for Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy at one point.
Clarion Project’s National Correspondent Shireen Qudosi, also a Muslim, comments:
“It’s a mistake to advocate for the Muslim vote through our faith. It doesn’t do us any favors when our faith is increasingly politicized. That’s not Islam; it’s Islamism.
“When major political figures further pretend to understand our faith and demographic, they do us a disservice by pressing their own ideas and biases into a religion they don’t understand. We have enough problems to sort through as American Muslims without someone coming along and pretending they care about our community. We’re nothing more than just another vote to most politicians.
“I’d like to see a candidate focus on what brings us together, what makes us Americans first and leave behind the pandering to our individual identity groups. In 2020, that’s the biggest question on the table right now: What does it mean to be American? That’s the question that needs our focus.
“I don’t want to see a presidential candidate quote a hadith* as if it’s scripture, [especially] when hadiths have been the primary source of severe antisemitism against the American Jewish community. Does Biden even know what a hadith is?
I don’t want to see an American politician push for more Islamic education in American classrooms because guess where that curriculum is going to come from? Islamists. American institutions are already under attack from Marxist ideology. We don’t want to throw another monkey wrench into the mix.”
Biden may not know what a hadith is, but he also may not know what a Muslim is either.
According to Religion News, in March, “Biden’s campaign appointed Emgage founding board member Farooq Mitha, formerly the national Muslim outreach director for Clinton’s campaign, as Biden’s senior adviser on Muslim American engagement.
Mitha joined the Biden team after the campaign faced backlash over its Muslim engagement coordinator, staffer Amit Jani, at the time. Jani is not Muslim, and according to critics, also shares close ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi is actively criticized by liberal and some conservative American Muslims for the anti-Muslim sentiment in India.
Other guests speaking at Emgage’s two-day virtual event include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Congressman Andy Kim, Congressman Andy Levin, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, Physician & Progressive Activist Abdul El-Sayed, State Senator Shareef Street, State Senator Ghazala Hashmi, State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones and DC Council Candidate Marcus Goodwin.
*Biden said, ‘A hadith from the Prophet Mohammed instructs, “Whomever among you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand. If he is not able, then with his tongue. If he is not able, then with his heart.’”