During day two of the Democratic National Convention, President Bill Clinton took the stage and shared some wonderful thoughts about his wife — and the first woman to win the presidential nomination from any political party in US history — Hillary Clinton.
The majority of his speech was focused on speaking to her accomplishments, her passions, and her desire to bring people together. He shared the impact she has had in his life and the positive change she will bring as president.
Towards the end of his time on stage, however, President Clinton made a comment about American Muslims that had absolutely no place in the rest of his thoughtful speech:
If you are a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make the future together. We want you.
This conditional statement targeted at American Muslims is both upsetting and unsettling for many reasons. Too often we hear that if you’re a good and happy Muslim, you can come here and be a part of society. But there’s a catch: you have to prove day in and day out that you aren’t one of the angry, violent Muslims. You’ll be accepted and allowed to exist, but only after suffering the scrutiny of your neighbors, inappropriate comments from elected officials, government surveillance, daily microaggressions and blatant racism and xenophobia.
Let’s get something straight here: Muslims do not have to prove they are good people because they identify as Muslim. Asking Muslims to “stay here” to “help us win” implies that Muslims are others who aren’t true Americans, and that they should help us, the real Americans, fight terror. Never mind the fact that the majority of domestic terrorist attacks are committed by non-Muslims.
American Muslims do not need to prove they “hate terror” and “love America.” That is not their primary function or responsibility. Believe it or not, Muslims are regular people who have their own lives and problems to attend to.
Huma Abedin, who is currently the vice-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, happens to be a Muslim. Does Abedin need to to prove that she “loves America and freedom” because of her faith? (The answer is “No!”)
President Clinton’s statement was likely intended to challenge the hateful rhetoric of the Trump campaign which is calling for a ban of Muslims, and highlight instead Hillary Clinton’s inclusive and progressive platform. Unfortunately, his comment simply alienates American Muslims and frames the conversation with the same Islamophobia that the Trump campaign encourages.
American Muslims are just as American as any other person of faith. We should be able to talk about Muslims outside the context of “terrorism,” and the fact that this needs to be said shows just how much work still needs to be done to realize the full humanity and diversity of Muslims in this nation.