Sorry To Disappoint, But Hillary Clinton Is Not My Muslim Savior
Of my maternal grandmother’s six children, my mother is the only one who isn’t an American. The other five siblings, three of them surgeons, immigrated to the U.S in the '70s and '80s, enticed by what President Obama has called “the audacity of hope.” These five immigrants from Punjab, Pakistan have laid their roots all over the country, from the Bay Area to Massachusetts, the Midwest, and Indiana. Over the last three decades, they’ve saved countless lives, contributed to research, and created several jobs. Their children, who first opened their eyes in this country, are most comfortable speaking in American English. The prospect of a Trump presidency terrifies them all.
And why shouldn’t it? From his proposed Muslim ban to his attack on the Khans, the GOP nominee for president has nailed his colors to the mast. Armed with an inflammatory turn of phrase and a deliberately simplistic view of the world, Trump has positioned himself as the Islamophobic candidate, capitalizing on tensions that have existed since 9/11. It was a central tenet of his bid for the GOP nomination and remains the foundation of his chaotic bid for the White House, which most Muslims in the country are praying will fail. Challenged by an uncommitted voter from the Islamic faith to spell out his strategy for countering Islamophobia earlier this month, Trump chose instead to reiterate his position: "We can be really politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem."
But because Trump's views are so extreme, and the way he expresses them so gratuitously offensive, he has made Hillary Clinton look like a savior, which she is not.
I was reminded of this last week at the third presidential debate. The Democratic nominee made the troubling assertion that, “The U.S. needs to work with American Muslim communities, who are on the front lines to identify and prevent attacks.” In a poorly worded statement, she first created a false separation between “The U.S.” and American Muslims, before insinuating that Muslims should spy on their peers. Scratch beneath the surface of her supposed progressiveness, and one finds an idea that is not all that different from the policy of the Chinese state, which employed internal espionage to enforce the one-child policy.
The media, by and large, did not criticize her comments, choosing to focus on her controversial rival. Yet on this point, there is little difference between them. "Muslims need to report problems when they see them," Trump said in the second presidential debate, while Hillary Clinton asked for them to be "our eyes and ears." Sure, she isn't calling for a Muslim ban, but that doesn't mean her language doesn't reinforce damaging stereotypes.
Though she has condemned Donald Trump for his "demagogic rhetoric," her own words have also reduced the immense contribution made to society by people like my aunt, who has saved hundreds of kids from cancer. My aunt, like the wider Muslim population of this country, has nothing to do with religious terrorism — and any implication that her life is somehow tied in to the atrocities committed by radical fanatics demeans the political discourse of one of the world’s greatest democracies.
Then, of course, there is Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record, an open goal even the likes of Donald Trump cannot miss. From her vote in favor of the disaster that is Iraq, to foreign policy misadventures in Libya and Syria, she has played her part in setting the Middle East ablaze.
In the marketplace of ideas, language is the most important commodity, and the word "Islam" seemingly cannot be spoken without the mention of terror in the same sentence. Equally troubling is the erroneous implication that Muslims in America are all immigrants. I have spoken to Muslims in this country whose ancestors were slaves in the Deep South, others who are white and decided to convert, and a great many like my cousins, who are the children of immigrants.
Then, of course, there is Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record, an open goal even the likes of Donald Trump cannot miss. From her vote in favor of the disaster that is Iraq, to foreign policy misadventures in Libya and Syria, she has played her part in setting the Middle East ablaze. We are now witnessing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, with millions of women and children displaced in Syria. While Clinton deserves credit for pledging to accept more refugees, we cannot absolve her from the errors in judgment which precipitated this global crisis in the first place.
No, Hillary Clinton is not the antidote to Islamophobia. She may go on to serve successfully and heal rifts with Muslims home and abroad, in the same way that I may one day successfully give up my pack-a-day smoking habit. There’s just scant evidence to suggest that either is likely. So if she is the answer in this particular election — and I have no doubt that the vast majority of American Muslims will vote for her — it is right to ask ourselves what question she’s answering.
Perhaps it is this: In a choice between fascism and uninspired orthodoxy, what is the least-damaging course of action? A vote for Mrs. Clinton is the only option. But America should have been given a better choice.