Former President Bill Clinton painted a picture-perfect portrait of the “real” Hillary in his speech on the second night of the Democratic National Convention.
He praised her as a “change-maker” and a dedicated wife, mother, and public servant. He also declared that undocumented immigrants should be offered a path to citizenship; and that Hillary would work towards “a future where no one’s afraid to walk outside,” particularly black youth and “the people that wear blue.”
Each of these comments was met with uproarious applause — though we can save critique on the “blue lives matter” talk taking over the DNC for another article.
His next remark also gathered cheers from the audience, but undoubtedly rubbed many American Muslims the wrong way.
Shortly before Senator Hillary Clinton would accept the Democratic nomination on the road to presidency, former President Bill Clinton claimed:
“If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together, we want you.”
Whatever former President Clinton’s intentions were with the statement, his words came off as uncomfortable-to-infuriating. As many DNC speakers and other Democrats have been doing, Clinton attempts to counter Republican candidate Donald Trump’s infamous remarks calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States by appealing to American Muslims and making us feel welcome here.
Ironically his comments have a distinctly Trumpesque sound to them, making his entire appeal counterproductive.
Clinton’s choice of the word “if” is particularly offensive. By using it, he implies that the average Muslim in America doesn’t “love America and freedom” or “hate terror.”
Clinton reinforces — intentionally or not — the notion that only Muslims who meet certain criteria can be welcome here. He asks Muslims to “stay here,” as if we’re going somewhere, as if he is giving us permission to be here, so long as we’re “good,” useful Muslims, of course.
Our former President could have taken a page from Senator Cory Booker’s speech the night before. Addressing the Democratic National Committee, Booker said,
“In a nation founded on religious freedom, [Trump] says ban all Muslims, don’t let certain people in because of how they pray.”
Instead of “scapegoating people because of their religion, alienating our allies, stoking fear, and pointing fingers,” the New Jersey senator posited that the United States will be more secure only “when we band together to face down and defeat our common enemy.” Booker made a point of pushing back against and rejecting the alienation of Muslims in the U.S.
Bill Clinton proliferates the toxic notion that responsibility of fighting the so-called Islamic State and its ilk falls squarely on the shoulders of Muslims — an unfair and offensive claim along the lines of “well, you Muslims aren’t condemning ISIS.”
American Muslims are expected to apologize for every single act of terrorism. When we say we’re Muslim, we have to be the “moderate” kind (read: not practicing or obviously Muslim or proud of our faith) to be deemed acceptable in American society.
The vast majority of American Muslims “love America and freedom” and “hate terror,” but Clinton talks as if these Americans are special exceptions to the greater population. In fact, Clinton’s sentiment bears an eerie resemblance to Newt Gingrich’s blatantly Islamophobic comments after the recent terror attack in Nice, France:
“Modern Muslims who have given up sharia — glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door.”
Bill Clinton tried to win Muslims over to Hillary’s side, but his bad word choice has backfired.
It is utterly exhausting as a Muslim in this country to constantly be presented as the “Other,” as outsiders who have to prove themselves as “real” Americans, to be expected to constantly apologize and to dilute our identity so as to make our religion more palatable to closed-minded individuals who fear those who are different from them.
We are doctors and lawyers and teachers, politicians and scientists and scholars. We do love this country. We do love freedom. We do hate terror. And we’re not going anywhere. We are here to stay.
Contributed by Noora Badwan
Image: Youtube Screengrab