Will Joe Biden Be Better for Muslims Than His Predecessors?

Joe Biden is now the U.S. president-elect. What does this mean for Muslim Americans? Will it change anything? 

The answer is: it’s complicated. 

Yes, nationally, the Democratic Party has been much kinder vocally than the Republican Party in calling out Islamophobia, giving Muslims a platform by inviting some to speak at rallies and conventions, and supporting religious minorities’ rights upholding church-state separation when governing. 

Taking aside, walking the walk has been a different story. While Muslims have mostly favored Democrats in almost every presidential election, the relationship between Democrats and Muslim Americans hasn’t reciprocated. 

We cannot ignore that being president of the U.S. is not merely a domestic position. As the most powerful country globally, the U.S. embodies American imperialism and exercises a disregard for brown, mostly Muslim lives abroad.

We cannot ignore that being president of the U.S. is not merely a domestic position. As the most powerful country globally, the U.S. embodies American imperialism and exercises a disregard for brown, mostly Muslim lives abroad. I always say that this is the most bipartisan thing about U.S. politics. 

The most recent example is Barack Obama’s presidency, under which Biden served as vice president. While Obama was, without a doubt, a generally great domestic president, his administration was among the deadliest administrations in foreign policy

In his first term as president, he traveled to various Muslim-majority countries, and when he went to Turkey, he said, “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.” 

This was, unfortunately, a lie. As much as I, and other Muslims, wanted to believe that Obama, with his charisma and his insistence to have pride in his Muslim father and middle name “Hussain,” was going to be the first American president in my lifetime to be peaceful with Muslim-majority countries, it wasn’t how the story went. 

One of the most significant stains on his legacy is his drone strikes history, which claimed innocent lives predominately in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just a snippet of the numbers we do have available to the public: the Obama administration unleashed a total of 563 (mostly drone) strikes, targeting Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Sadly while this number could be higher, experts estimate that 384 and 807 civilians were killed due to these strikes

That’s compared to 57 strikes under George W. Bush. Yes, THE war criminal Bush, also known as the worst U.S. president in the 21st Century. Does one need to say more about what a bad policy is when you strike countries ten times more than a war criminal administration? 

When Pakistanis, Somalis, and Yemenis reflect on that era, did it matter whether a Republican or Democratic president greenlighted this terror? Probably not. When the Arab Spring was happening, and the administration was quick to side with dictators (although they backed away when they realized they were on the losing side) while the same dictator “friends” shot us on the streets, did having a Democrat as president help us? No. (With a global pandemic, many issues, including our violent foreign policy, were not extensively discussed in the 2020 presidential and vice-presidential debates) 

But the loss of innocent lives isn’t just the only thing. We implemented economic terrorism in various countries by forcing economic sanctions. One of the countries that remains a victim of this is Iran, as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is considered one of Obama’s foreign policy accomplishments. 

Accomplishment, it’s not. It’s the epitome of American imperialism. The sanctions on Iran, right at this moment in history, is preventing them from getting access to life-saving resources during a global pandemic. There is no world where it is an act of peace that a country suppresses another country’s economic resources. 

In the 2020 debates, Biden and Kamala Harris seemed to hint at remaining loyal to our “friends” and upholding sanctions. Yeah, our history with “friends” like the Israeli and Saudi Arabian government has not been great for marginalized populations like Palestinians, Yemenis, and Iranians, to name a few. 

I’m not saying abandon all hope, ye who reads this, but Biden must do better than the administration he was a part of – an administration he continues to take pride in. 

As president-elect, he must learn from past mistakes and acknowledge and listen to the Muslim community. We continue to vote for Democrats in large numbers, but we want more than kind words. We want to see you walk the walk. If Democrats want to be better than their Republican counterparts, they must stop demonizing us abroad and creating further instability in Muslim-majority countries. 

We pay attention, and we’re a voting bloc to court. Many of us have family abroad impacted by American imperialism. Almost all of us know someone affected by violent policies that collectively punishes innocent Muslims abroad. And we’re emotionally tired of it—neither party, when in power, recognizes our humanity. 

Here’s to hoping that the Biden-Harris administration is a more peaceful administration to all of us. Although they weren’t even close to my top choice of Democratic candidates, I am sincerely rooting for peace and success.